A Bangladeshi girl Sharmin, 13, working in a plastic recycling factory. Picture: Associated Press
Cape Town - About 2 billion PET (polyethylene terephthalene) bottles were collected for recycling across South Africa last year, which created income opportunities for 62 000 small and micro collectors.

Petco, the organisation responsible for fulfilling the South African PET plastic industry’s role of extended producer responsibility, announced its recycling figures for last year. They showed an increase in the annual PET recycling rate from 2 percent of post-consumer bottle PET in 2015 to 55 percent, exceeding their target for the second consecutive year.

It recycled an additional 22 percent of post-consumer bottles in comparison to the previous year, with the total PET market growing by 14.8 percent to 241269 tons.

Petco’s chief executive, Cheri Scholtz, said the organisation was delighted with the latest figures.

She said the voluntary recycling fee paid annually by Petco members on every ton of raw material bought had enabled the payment of R1.9 billion by the organisation's contracted recyclers to collectors for baled bottles since the inception of Petco in 2014.

This had ensured the collection of PET bottles for recycling was sustained in the almost 800 000 tons of carbon and more than 3 million cubic meters of landfill space currently saved.

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Chandru Wadhwani, the joint managing director of Extrupet and Petco board member, said Petco’s achievement of collecting 90749 tons last year, was remarkable.

“For those of us who have long memories in this industry, it is extraordinary to have crossed the 90000 ton mark so early on in Petco’s young evolution.

"This is an achievement built on teamwork, co-ordinated at its finest through the exemplary efforts of Petco.”

Petco said South Africa’s 55 percent recycling rate compared well with international PET recycling rates. The US rate of post-consumer PET recycling was around the 30 percent mark and European average rates were about 59 percent.

Recycled PET can be used to make many new products, including polyester staple fibre or filament used for clothing; home textiles (duvets, pillows, carpeting); automotive parts (carpets, sound insulation, boot linings, seat covers) and roof insulation. It could also be used to make new PET packaging and bottles for both food and non-food products.