Design for the environment

The recycling of packaging does not begin with its collection,
but rather with its design

Design for the environment

In order to close the loop in the circular economy and ensure plastic packaging gets recycled so it can be made into new products, it’s essential that retailers, brand owners, packaging manufacturers and designers embed recyclability principles into their pack design processes.

Truly designing for the benefit of the environment is about product stewardship, forward-thinking initiatives, innovation and breaking new ground to realise never-before-seen solutions.

The future of recycling within a circular economy begins with you.





Are you thinking about putting a new product in PET onto the market? Don’t know which labels or glue to use? Take a look at our guide below.


We strive to stay up to date and to share locally relevant case studies as far as design for PET recycling is concerned. If you have any stories in this respect, please email them to


Coca-Cola (Sprite)

Happy Culture Kombucha

Oasis Water, UPM raflatac & Java Print


How a PET package is designed will determine its end of life. The form, material type used, identification code, additive, colour of the plastic, closure, closure liner, cap, sleeves, seals, label, adhesives and ink chosen will determine whether a PET package will land up becoming a brand new PET package, fibre or will end up in a landfill.

In South Africa, recycled PET (rPET) can be used to make many new products.

In the food-grade sector, recycled PET resin has been blended with virgin PET in various ratios since 2009 for use in the manufacture of containers and bottles such as sandwich containers, trays, tubs, and non-carbonated beverage bottles.

Non-food-grade recycled PET is often applied as an input material in the manufacturing sector. Recycled PET can be made into polyester staple fibre for apparel (clothing), home textiles (duvets, pillows, carpeting), automotive parts (carpets, sound insulation, boot linings, seat covers), industrial end-use items (geotextiles and roof insulation), strapping, fruit carton corner pieces of fibre, and bottles for personal, homecare and pharmaceutical.



The demand for food-grade rPET resin continues to exceed supply by significant margins. This can be attributed to increased acceptance by many companies of the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and is further exacerbated by commitments made by many organisations, both local and global, to include increasing percentages of rPET in their efforts to close the loop on their PET packaging. The use of recycled resin in food-grade PET packaging entails compliance with extremely stringent standards for health and safety and product quality.

In order to move towards meeting the demand for rPET, Extrupet’s expansion of the food-grade Starlinger line was completed by the end of 2020. The line is fully operational and will increase the processing capacity of the plant from 20 000 tonnes to over 30 000 tonnes of rPET per annum. This expansion will allow for brand owners to specify higher levels of recycled content. In addition, it will strengthen South Africa’s position as a circular economy leader in Africa and place us competitively within the global packaging market. It will also enable the country to meet recycling and job creation targets in the forthcoming years.



Bottle-to-bottle rPET is expected to consume a larger share of collected bottles in the near future, however, bottle-to-fibre remains an important element of PETCO’s strategy. Bottle-to-fibre continues to consume the majority of bottles collected with all three of our largest recycling partners producing polyester fibre. The fibre produced is used for a variety of applications with the local market constituting 30% of the production and the balance being exported. Unfortunately, the local consumption of fibre has decreased over the last few years owing to the collapse in the textiles industry; consequently, our recycling partners are increasingly dependent on exports.

Polyester staple fibre/filament is used to manufacture clothing, home textiles (duvets, pillows, and carpeting), automotive components (carpets, sound insulation, boot linings and seat covers) as well as industrial applications like geotextiles and insulation.


Other Applications

PETCO is determined to develop alternative end-use markets for recycled PET products. That’s why we have been actively collaborating with commercial product developers, academic institutions, and research organisations such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in investigations into the technical and commercial viability of various end-use products and markets. We trust that some of these products and markets will, in the future, take up an increasing percentage of the post-consumer PET bottles collected in South Africa. One of PETCO’s recyclers, Da Run Fa, invested in machinery for producing tiles made from PET bottles and completed a successful pilot project in 2020.