Woolworths plastic bags. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - South Africa is making significant strides in the reduction of single-use plastics; more people are recycling their plastics.

The statistics released by national industry body PET Recycling Company (Petco), finds that 98649 tons of post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles were recycled last year, saving 612000 cubic metres of landfill space and lessening the country’s carbon emissions footprint by 148000 tons. This represents a 6% increase when compared with the 2017 figures of 93235 tons of PET bottles recycled.

Petco chief executive Cheri Scholtz said an average of 6.2 million PET plastic bottles were collected for recycling across South Africa every day last year, creating 68000 income-generating opportunities for small and micro-collectors - up from the 64000 total for 2017. In addition, an estimated R1.2bn was injected into the downstream economy, through the manufacturing, distribution and sale of products made from recycled PET.

Describing the results as “encouraging”, Scholtz said it meant Petco was on track to meet its target of 70% of post-consumer PET bottles recycled by 2022, adding that last year there was unprecedented pressure and attention on plastics in the public space.

“Now, more than ever, companies failing to address environmental performance in product design and development will find it increasingly difficult to compete in the global market. Globally, product stewardship or extended producer responsibility (EPR)has become the requirement for all producers. In South Africa, the Waste Act now makes this a legal requirement. It cannot be right to allow plastics to leak into the environment, but neither is it acceptable to lose the opportunity to utilise plastic as a fit-for-purpose and cost-effective material for so many applications.”

Scholtz said Petco had responded to the call by the Department of Environmental Affairs and submitted an industry waste management plan last year, which she described as a “massive collaborative effort” by all stakeholders in the PET value chain.

“Creating the right balance of legislative drivers and positive long-term business conditions will allow a viable and resilient system to be established which demonstrates the value of plastics as a circular material and prevents plastic in the natural environment. EPR is seen by many as one of the key drivers to achieving these aims.”

Cape Argus