Turning trash into a tradeable commodity
From resealable Ziploc plastic bags and airtight plastic storage containers to individual single-portion plastic sachets for your favourite foods, the plastics industry offers many ways for consumers to reduce the amount of food wasted in their homes. However, all this plastic used to preserve food for longer, eventually has to end up somewhere.
“Post-consumer plastic waste is a growing problem for landfill management and in terms of waste disposal. This is where post-consumer recycling can make an enormous positive environmental impact,” says Ronald Fairbanks, General Manager of Mpact Polymers.
Mpact, along with other packaging manufacturers, industry bodies and recycling groups, has committed to plastic recycling with the objective of reducing the amount of plastic that makes it into landfill sites. In 2015, Mpact closed the loop with its PET recycling operation which takes used PET beverage bottles and turns them into new beverage bottles.
Recently, Minister Edna Molewa of the Department of Environmental Affairs officially opened the Mpact Polymers plant. The plant produces recycled PET (rPET) for use in beverage bottles and food packaging. The operation forms part of Mpact’s mission to reduce the PET industry’s impact on the environment.
“Bottling manufacturers are focusing on reducing packaging material weight as well as reducing the amount of virgin PET used in the production of new bottles. For this reason, it became necessary to consider ways to recycle bottles back into the system and ensure that this rPET is of sufficient quality to be used in the manufacture of new bottles,” explains Fairbanks.
“PET can be recycled multiple times, which reduces manufacturing costs and waste, saves carbon dioxide and energy, avoids using landfill space, and decreases the need for raw materials,” explains Cheri Scholtz, CEO of PETCO, the PET Recycling Company, “helping to create a more sustainable supply chain.”
Last year the South African market produced approximately 210,000 tonnes of PET for local consumption, close to 70% of which was processed into PET bottles, primarily for use in the beverage industry. The balance was processed into other forms of food packaging like bottles, jars and tubs.
“During 2015 South African recycling entrepreneurs collected almost 74,000 tonnes of bottles for recycling. These 1.7 billion PET bottles collected equates to approximately 4.7 million bottles collected each and every day, sustaining over 50 000 income opportunities, Scholtz adds.
As the rate of recycling of PET bottles increases, the environmental and economic benefits are vast can only grow further, as more bottles are recycled back into the system.