Energy & Environment

Saturday, 23 July 2011 14:30

PET plastic waste recycling doubles in four years

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The PET industry has invested some R130m in recycling infrastructure in South Africa and contributed more than R60m towards supporting and extending the collection of post-consumer PET nationally. The industry has also doubled its tonnage since 2005 through the introduction of the voluntary recycling levy for producers of the plastic.
PETCO, the PET plastic recycling company, aims to achieve 38% recycling of plastic bottles (PET) by 2010 – a significant increase of its already successful operations – by establishing accountability amongst manufacturers, importers and sellers of plastic bottle packaging nationally.

The organisation is the first to introduce the principle of the Extended Producer Responsibility in which producers of PET are encouraged to contribute a levy on a voluntary basis, just one of the ways that PETCO has ensured its steady and successful growth.

Says Cheri Scholtz, CEO of PETCO: “PETCO’s performance is evidence that the case for PET recycling is strong, and Extended Producer Responsibility can play a powerful role when an industry voluntarily embraces these principles and subscribes to a triple bottom line approach where financial, social and environmental performance is sought.”

PETCO has set its sights high by establishing, a range of ambitious PET recycling targets and goals for present and future operations. From an impressive 28% of beverage bottles recycled in 2008, PETCO’s target for 2009 is to collect 34% of beverage PET.
The most common container in the soft drink market today in South Africa, the plastic bottle, or more specifically, the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle is the transparent, rigid container used to package bottled water, carbonated soft drinks (CSD’s), juice, peanut butter, salad dressings, oil, cosmetics and household cleaners. As a polymer manufactured from oil based raw material, PET is tough and resilient and is 100% recyclable and is the type of plastic resin labelled with the # 1 code on or near the bottom of bottles and containers.

PETCO represents major brand owners, raw material producers, converters and bottlers. The organisation has guided the recycling of post-consumer PET in South Africa where tonnage of post-consumer PET collected and recycled under the PETCO funded and driven projects has increased from less than 1 000 tons recycled in 2000 to over 22 000 tons (28%) of beverage bottles recycled in 2008 – this represents 1.5 billion bottles to date.

This year, the PET industry has taken the first steps to obtain approval from the Health Ministry of SA for standards and protocols for the use of recycled content in food contact packaging which is the first step in closing the loop and developing bottle to bottle (B2B) recycling in South Africa.

“There are currently fifteen B2B recycling plants in the world, and for this to become a reality in South Africa, we need a clean, consistent supply of post consumer bottles at the right price. PETCO is supportive of the ‘two bag’ or ‘separation at source’ and Material Recycling Facility concept – this will ensure good, clear PET bottle scrap to give B2B technology a chance to develop in SA along with job opportunities,” says the organisation’s Chair, Greg Morse.

The PETCO model, built on the simple principle of establishing an industry-driven and -financed environmental solution for PET, has proven to be expandable and sustainable. PETCO imposes accountability over the entire life cycle of PET products and packaging. This means that companies manufacturing, importing and/or selling PET packaging are financially and physically responsible for such packaging material after their useful life.

The high environmental profile coupled with the high cost proportion of the two prime constituents of PET, namely crude-oil based terephthalic acid and mono-ethylene glycol, has been the main driver in the establishment of a thriving PET recycling industry. Demand for polyester fibre has ensured an ideally placed end consumer market for recycled PET to date – an end-use market which is currently facing some pressure due to the global economic crisis. Fortunately South Africa has recycling capacity and PETCO’s main contracted recycler, Extrupet, has a niche fibre market.

“Due to the growing amount of PET recycled every year, we are focusing on developing new end-use markets, and bottle to bottle recycling, where a percentage of PET recyclate can be used in original packaging going forward. Composite lumber (made from recycled plastics) in the form of crates, pallets, outdoor decking and furniture has potential as does increased use of insulation products which are particularly useful in reducing energy requirements in homes and buildings,” Scholtz explains.

PETCO is financed by a voluntary recycling levy of R250 per ton, paid by converters on PET resin purchased. PETCO also receives grants from brand owners and raw material producers. The plastic recycling company is one of the big financial contributors to the Plastic Federation’s Enviromark programme as the organisation believes that education and awareness of the value of plastic, especially PET, is key to future environmental improvement.


Released By: Lynn Du Plessis
Public Relations - PETCO
021 788 9954 / 082 749 6132
For: PET Recycling Company (Pty) Ltd
Spokesperson: CEO Cheri Scholtz
021 788 9954 / 083 651 4313

For more information, please visit

Notes to the Editor
Who is PETCO?

PETCO was established in December 2004 as a (Pty) Ltd Company with the specific objective of promoting and improving the waste management and recycling of post consumer Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) products on behalf of all stakeholders in the PET industry in South Africa.

PETCO is headed by a board made up of representatives of brand owners, bottlers, resin manufacturers, converters and retailers. A key challenge in the establishment of PETCO had been the establishment of sustainable and equitable funding mechanisms for an industry-wide effort. A unique levy system has secured the voluntary buy-in of industry players. Resin manufacturers collect the PET levy at source. The resin manufacturers pass the levies onto PETCO every month.

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