Winning the battle to recycle plastic bottles

More PET plastic bottles are now being recycled than being sent to landfill.

Cheri Scholtz CEO- PETCO
Cheri Scholtz CEO- PETCO

This milestone has just been reached, according to PETCO, the national industry body responsible for managing PET plastic recycling in South Africa.

In 2015, 52% of post-consumer PET plastic bottles, that’s around 74,000 tonnes, were collected for recycling in South Africa.  Figures for 2016 are projected to increase to 54%.

Cheri Scholtz, CEO of PETCO, says, “PETCO is delighted that for the eleventh consecutive year, the post-consumer PET bottle-recycling rate has increased, despite two of the biggest falls in oil prices seen in recent years.”

“Recycling PET bottles over the last twelve years has saved a total of 651 000 tons of carbon and avoided using 2.7 million m3 of landfill space,” she continues.

Also commenting on the news, Dr Casper Durandt, Franchise Technical Director for Coca-Cola Southern and East Africa, said, “The Coca-Cola Company and our bottling partners in South Africa are truly proud of what PETCO has accomplished. PETCO is the entity that facilitates brand owners in fulfilling our Extended Producer Responsibility. The unique PETCO model in South Africa is a recognised world best practice in sustainable funding, collection and local recycling of plastic beverage containers in the Coca-Cola System.”

Over 50,000 sustainable income opportunities have been created through the activities of the PETCO network of recycling. Training, skills transfer and entrepreneurial upliftment and development have all been enhanced through the PET recycling industry.

The economic benefits of PET recycling have resulted in payments of R1.2 billion to collectors of PET bottles by the contracted recycling companies. R1 billion worth of infrastructure has been created and R3.5 billion of value has been injected into the downstream economy.

Tom McLaughlin, head of responsible sourcing for Woolworths Foods commented, “With PETCO’s assistance, Woolworths has been able to close the loop and reuse thousands of tons of recycled plastic in its food packaging. We are also using more and more recycled PET in our clothing and home textiles.  It’s part of our Good Business Journey to reduce our impact on the planet.”

WHO IS PETCO? 

PETCO is the trading name of the PET Recycling Company NPC, a company established in 2004 to fulfill the South African PET industry’s role of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

EPR promotes the integration of environmental costs associated with PET products throughout their life cycles into the market costs of the products, and shifts responsibility for the used container from government to private industry.

PETCO is financed by a voluntary recycling levy paid by converters on PET resin purchased. PETCO also receives grants from brand owners, resin producers and retailers. Support for PET recycling efforts ensures an ongoing monetary value for post-consumer PET. This sustains collection interest and reduces the volume of post-consumer PET in the waste stream.

By taking responsibility for post-consumer PET recycling, PETCO imposes accountability over the entire life cycle of PET products and packaging. This means that companies that manufacture, import and/or sell PET products and packaging are financially and physically responsible for such products after their useful life.

Ongoing consumer and public education and awareness activities promote environmental responsibility and encourage PET recycling.

WHAT IS PET? 

PET is the acronym for a very versatile and sophisticated plastic called Polyethylene Terephthalate. For sound economic and safety reasons, it’s the plastic used to make the most common container in the soft drink market today: the plastic bottle. Successfully used in the packaging for carbonated soft drinks, bottled water, milk, juice, sports and energy drinks, jars, punnets, tubs and trays for food items, bottles for household, personal care and pharmaceutical products, and sheet and film for packaging, PET is the type of plastic labeled with the # 1 code on or near the bottom of bottles and containers.

PET is sometimes referred to as polyester and is made from mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) and purified terephthalic acid (PTA), which is derived from crude oil and natural gas. These two crude oil derivatives are reacted under a controlled set of conditions to form a polymer. Then, in a honey-like form, this polymer is extruded through a die-plate, cast into spaghetti-like strands, and cut into pellets. These pellets are crystallised and polymerised for a second time to increase their strength and to remove volatiles. The resultant FDA compliant pellets are packaged and sent to the plastics converters to make containers.

WHAT PETCO DO? 

We invest all our funds in ensuring and encouraging visible recycling, through contracting and financing PET recyclers who collect bottles, process them into rPET in preparation for the manufacture of new products, and make those products consumer education and awareness (including schools and community groups) training and joint venture projects (including those with municipalities) equipment support and sponsorship (for collectors) 
guidance relating to design for recycling (for industry).

We do this by way of partnerships and working to a five to ten-year plan with clearly-defined targets.

For more information or to see the PETCO Annual Review in the digital library, see www.petco.co.za.

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