The South African Polyolefin Recycling Company (Polyco) has set a goal of growing polyolefin recycling in South Africa by 300 000 t over the next five years to achieve the Industry Waste Management Plan target for plastic of 35%, or 238 000 t, by 2020.
“Although an ambitious target, we believe it is achievable if sufficient recycling levy funds are made available,” says Polyco CEO Mandy Naudé.
Polyco was established in 2013 by the South African Polyolefin Plastic Packaging Converters to reduce the amount of polyolefin packaging going to landfill by increasing the sustainable collection, recycling, recovery and beneficiation of polyolefin plastics. These plastics constitute about 70% of plastics packaging in South Africa.
Polyolefin plastics continue to be the most widely recycled plastic in South Africa, with a combined total of 212 090 t that were mechanically recycled in 2014 alone, according to the latest plastic recycling figures released by plastic representative body PlasticsSA.
Since its inception in 2013, Polyco has funded projects to the value of R17-million in the recycling value chain, which, in turn, will unlock new volumes of 48 000 t over the next three years, as well as create 558 formal and 3 750 informal jobs.
“We are a successful network of people and companies involved in polyolefin plastic recycling, working together to look after our planet, to improve economies and for the betterment of all our lives,” Naudé explains.
“We believe in providing recyclers a much needed hand-up, not a hand-out. To this end, Polyco operates according to a unique, self-sustainable funding model whereby about 80% of the funding support we provide, takes the form of interest-free loans, which are repaid over three years. These loan repayment funds are then re-loaned to other successful applicants.
Naudé explains that the more funding Polyco loans to the recycling industry, the more funding income it generates for further loans, without having to increase the recycling levy from converters.
Polyco calls for funding request proposals three times a year. These are aimed at collectors or recyclers who are required to submit their business plan detailing the support required to be able to divert more polyolefin packaging materials from landfill.
“These applications are subject to a rigorous evaluation process before board approval of a short-list, which will be subject to further detailed evaluation. The successful applicants will be funded either by means of a grant or an interest free loan to be repaid over three years. All funding contracts are linked to projected volume growth and failure to perform puts the applicant in breach,” she says.
During 2014, all R11-million project spend was sourced from the voluntary levy contributions. In 2015, R2.5-million will be sourced from repaid loans and by 2020, R25-million of the R43-million project spend will be sourced from repaid loans.
At the projected growth rates, Polyco is confident that they will achieve this target, based on the assumption that the polyolefin packaging market size will grow at 4.25% a year.
“We now have the necessary infrastructure in place to support our activities and the polyolefin recycling industry. However, we are going to need more recycling levy funding to achieve our goal and unlock the opportunities that exist.
“We are going to need more converters to sign up as members, and believe that South Africa’s brand owners have a significant role to play in waste management and recycling. They exercise a significant influence on the packaging industry, and we are urging them to get on board and share our vision of 100% converter support of the material responsibility organisations (MROs), by insisting that their packaging suppliers are paying the current voluntary sustainability levy.
“Ultimately these MROs are ensuring that the packaging put onto the shelves is being responsibly managed and recycled where possible,” Naudé concludes.