The Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation (Polyco) is investing in infrastructure and end-use development that is essential to growing the collection, recycling and beneficiation of polyolefin plastic waste.
This follows research it conducted into the economic potential of one of its key market sectors – beverage bottles – and to better understand the opportunities for the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and recycled HDPE (rHDPE) market.
“Our research has highlighted that more than 20 000 t of HDPE beverage bottles enter the market each year and up to 17 500 t are recycled, indicating that 87.5% of HDPE beverage packaging is recycled,” says Polyco CEO Mandy Naudé.
The recycled material re-enters the economy instead of polluting the environment or ending up in landfill. Polyco's research also proved that demand for white or transparent post-consumer HDPE products for recycling in South Africa was high.
Further, the research also highlighted that, owing to the economic value of this HDPE material, there is at least one HDPE mechanical recycler in eight of the country's provinces.
Informal waste reclaimers predominantly operate around the big metros, with the recent research highlighting that more than R35-million is earned by waste reclaimers for the high-value HDPE beverage bottles they collect.
“It is encouraging to see industry role-players working together to take advantage of the economic opportunity that comes with recycling HDPE and creating products that have rHDPE included in the product design. It is important for consumers to realise that recyclable plastic, such as HDPE, must be kept out of the landfill waste stream altogether so that we can maximise its economic value," she says.
Common HDPE milk and beverage bottles are designed for recycling. They are heavy, have an HDPE cap and are free of by-products, such as ink, that pollute the recycling value chain. These design aspects make it an economically attractive material.
“There are several market end-uses that help improve the recycling rate of HDPE products by promoting the use of rHDPE content. There is a drive for rHDPE to be used for higher-value applications, such as personal care product packaging, which requires a quality recyclate; ideally made from white milk bottles,” concludes Naudé.