The South African plastics industry has hit a new high with a record 2.15 billion PET plastic bottles recycled in 2017.

According to national industry body PETCO, this has set a post-consumer recycling rate of 65% which puts the country on par with international standards.

The 93 235 tonnes of collected PET exceeded the industry target of 58% for the year 2017 and created 64 000 income-generating opportunities for waste pickers, collectors and recyclers, saving 578 000m3 of landfill space and 139 000 tonnes of carbon in the process.

PETCO says the 3% year-on-year increase in tonnage (versus 90 749 tonnes in 2016) was particularly significant against the backdrop of the political and economic instability, volatile exchange rates and industrial strike action, which had affected some of the major industry players in 2017.

Industry commitment

PETCO chief executive officer Cheri Scholtz notes that the organisation is thrilled with the latest figures, which demonstrates both the industry’s commitment to recycling and the economic value of post-consumer PET in the circular economy.

“Through the remarkable network of people, companies and organisations we work with, 5.9 million PET bottles were collected for recycling across South Africa every day during the course of 2017, creating thousands of income-generating opportunities for small and micro-collectors, and changing their lives and those of their families in immeasurable ways.”

Scholtz adds that PETCO members paid a voluntary recycling fee on every tonne of raw material purchased, which funded their efforts and supported a sustainable recycling industry.

Extraordinary partnerships

PETCO chairman Casper Durandt says the organisation’s accomplishment could not have been achieved without its dedicated partners.

“They have made extraordinary contributions to the recycling of post-consumer PET in South Africa, thereby enabling PETCO to expand our collection network, build relationships with recyclers, seek new opportunities to develop and support entrepreneurs, and ultimately grow our recycling tonnages.”