PET bottle recycling upskills & uplifts rural SA

PET bottle recycling upskills & uplifts rural SA
02 Aug 2019

PET bottle recycling upskills & uplifts rural SA

Recycling in SA is providing an effective tool for keeping PET plastic bottles out of the environment and giving people a way out of poverty.

PETCO members, who helped to achieve a PET recycling rate of 63% last year, are working hard to expand their collection networks and give community members a hand up rather than a handout.

The voluntary collection and recycling model has certainly gained ground in South Africa and our Voting Member, Mpact Recycling, is making great strides in this regard.

As one of the country’s leading collectors of recyclable packaging, Mpact Recycling has empowered communities with valuable support and upskilling to increase waste recycling infrastructure and job creation. What started as a small business empowerment project in 2014 is now a full-scale recycling programme.

The company enables PET plastic bottle recycling by helping individuals to start their own sustainable collection businesses, sorting recyclables at landfill sites and collecting waste from shops before it hits the landfill.

At least 210 jobs have been created to date and over a thousand families are now able to feed and educate their children as a result of the project.

By dealing directly with the collectors on the ground, Mpact Recycling has been able to offer them fair prices, regular collections and regular payments to create a sustainable livelihood.

Mpact Recycling collects over 600,000 tonnes of paper and plastic a year and has had a significant impact in cleaning up the impoverished rural areas of Northern KwaZulu-Natal.

True to its motto of “smarter, sustainable solutions”, the PET plastic bottles go to its recycled PET (rPET) plant, Mpact Polymers, which makes the raw material in the form of food-grade rPET, Savuka. This is then processed at its plastics division to make the preforms that are eventually blown into bottles used by various brand owners.

In order to educate the collectors and initially gain their trust, they were taken on a trip to the Mpact Recycling operation in Richards Bay to see exactly how the materials are weighed, sorted and paid by grade.

Since January 2015, balers have been placed at a number of suppliers delivering higher volumes, allowing the initiative to grow the collection of baled and loose PET fibre even further.

Eshowe-based business Mtima Recycling is a particular example of the success of the programme. In the last four years, it has grown from six employees and one bakkie to 21 full-time employees and three bakkies.