Drought pushes WC plastic recyclers to maximum production

Demand for plastic bottles in the Western Cape is at an all-time high due to the drought and the changes this has brought about in water consumption.

As a result, local recycling capacity in the Western Cape is at maximum production and unable to process the additional influx of bottles. To avoid these excess bottles being sent to landfill, Petco members have teamed up to have 15MT of baled bottles transported to Gauteng where they can be processed.

In March, Petco associate member Oasis Water, recycling experts Extrupet, and Petco transported 15MT of baled bottles to the Extrupet facility in Gauteng for processing.

“Just by way of scale, when we load 15MT on the truck sponsored by Oasis Water, half a million bottles will now be recycled that otherwise wouldn’t have been. This is the ultimate value of this initiative and companies like Oasis Water need to be commended – they set the perfect example of what extended producer responsibility entails. But for the support of companies like Oasis Water, these bottles would ultimately be landfilled or worse, end up in the oceans,” says Chandru Wadhwani, joint managing director of Extrupet and Petco board member.

He says the pressing driver is to ensure that the extra volume of PET bottles that have found their way to the Western Cape finds a home in a recycled product.

Group director of Oasis Water, Naas du Preez, says his company is sponsoring the transport as a sign of goodwill, and also challenges fellow bottlers and players in the industry to do the same and assist with keeping recycling responsible.

Petco is monitoring the situation closely to determine whether additional transportation will be needed to ease the burden on the Western Cape recycling capacity, and encourages other companies to offer financial support should additional transport become necessary.

South Africans in drought stricken provinces have come to rely on plastics to assist in dealing with water shortages and are trusting the recycling industry to assist in getting through the crisis responsibly.

The PET recycling company (Petco) has made massive strides in increasing SA recycling rates in recent years, resulting in a Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottle recycling rate of 55% in 2016. This means more than 90 000 tonnes of PET, or two billion bottles being recycled each year.

Petco CEO Cheri Scholtz says: “Through the remarkable network of people, companies and organisations we work with, we have created more than 60 000 income opportunities for small and micro-collectors, changing their lives and those of their families in immeasurable ways and injecting almost R900 million into the economy to date.”

Petco’s contracted recycling partner Extrupet, has a fibre producing plant in Milnerton in Cape Town and a Bottle-2-Bottle plant in Wadeville, Johannesburg, where recycled PET plastic bottles are used to manufacture new bottles for many food grade applications or recycled into a myriad new and useful products such as polyester fibre for duvets and pillows, jeans and t-shirts, and reusable shopping bags. This process has made SA a self-sufficient manufacturer of polyester fibre, no longer reliant on imports.

A scene from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

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