Last year set a high benchmark for recyclers of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) milk and beverage bottles to build on, says The Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation (Polyco).
More than 75% of HDPE milk and beverage bottles were recycled in 2019, which injected a significant amount of material back into the market to be repurposed.
HDPE is a common material used in the beverage packaging market. More than 20 000 t/y of HDPE enters the market, of which about 17 000 t is recycled.
It is a highly sought-after material as it does not have to be heavily cleaned and milk does not contaminate the bottle.
Polyco says it helps that HDPE milk bottles have been specifically designed with recycling in mind. It is usually made from white or clear HDPE, is heavy enough to give it sufficient value for waste reclaimers to collect, has an easily removable sleeve label and has a cap made from HDPE as well.
It also helps that fresh milk is mainly distributed in the large metropolitan areas and the bottles will therefore, after consumption, be separated at source (SAS) or waste reclaimers will actively be separating materials on the kerbside or at landfill.
Polyco explains that metros often have SAS programmes and all major mechanical recyclers are based in metros.
Another factor driving mechanical recycling demand is the use of white or clear HDPE recyclate in quality critical products such as bodycare or detergent bottles.
Looking at ways to enhance the recycling economy is directly in line with Polyco’s mission to end plastic waste in the environment, through collaborative investment in new infrastructure, innovative design for recycling, and educating consumers about the role they play in growing recycling in South Africa.
Polyco says that while many brand owners and retailers are exploring moving from plastic to other materials, HDPE milk bottles have a higher recycling rate compared with the materials currently being explored, which are harder to recycle.