About 177,000 tonnes of polyolefin plastics, such as milk and detergent bottles, bread bags and assorted food containers, were recycled last year – contributing approximately R1.7 billion to the country’s GDP and creating over 14,000 jobs. However, 363,000 tonnes were not, meaning that South Africa is missing out on potential GDP growth and much-needed employment opportunities.
These figures were revealed at Polyco’s recent fifth Annual General Meeting (AGM) by Chairman, Jeremy Mackintosh. Polyco was established in 2011 by polyolefin packaging producers, to reduce the amount of polyolefin waste going to landfill by providing funding to increase the sustainable collection, recycling, recovery and beneficiation of polyolefin plastics.
At the AGM, it was announced that the non-profit company (NPC) – which is focused on making waste a valuable resource that works for the economy – would be rebranding to Polyco+, creating a movement designed to change mindsets and behaviours around recycling.
Mackintosh said that while the polyolefin packaging market grew by 3.3% in 2016, recycling volumes remained at the same level as the previous year. The South African Plastics Recycling Organisation confirmed this, with its General Manager, Annabe Pretorius, stating: “The demand for recyclate (raw recyclable material) is still at an all-time low – which has been the case for more than 14 months. This low demand can be attributed to the general economic slump, which has specifically affected commodity market applications for recyclate.”
Polyco Chief Executive Officer, Mandy Naudé added: “We, as South Africans, are facing a national crisis, with a recent Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) study noting that only 5% of our population recycles. Over and above slowing economic development and withholding employment opportunities from thousands, the consequences of this lack of responsibility when it comes to our waste has resulted in unsightly and harmful plastics filling our natural environment – both marine and land-based.”
Polyco+ has been launched to broaden the company’s capacity in addressing these problems. Naudé explained: “Polyco+ is an engagement platform that collaboratively finds solutions to the national crisis that affects us all. Through it, we will continue to work with municipalities and industry sectors, supporting their operations and taking the necessary action to recover from the challenging economic conditions of the past year. We will also be joining forces with like-minded industry partners such as packaging converters, brand owners, retailers, collectors and recyclers to implement sustainable, long-term solutions with the ultimate aim of improving the management of polyolefin waste. In addition, we will be engaging with consumers to shift their perception of recycling because, unless we secure their support, we will not win the battle to clean up our environment.”
The platform also aligns with the NPC’s role in implementing the polyolefin Industry Waste Management Plan (IWMP) that will provide polyolefin waste solutions to both metro and rural areas whilst bolstering enterprise development, job creation and transformation opportunities within the sector.
Polyco+ aims to create a society where litter is minimised and the value of waste is maximised through recycling. The strategy for achieving this is underpinned by three key pillars – Celebration, Collaboration and Activation.
Elaborating on these, Naudé said: “In terms of the Celebration component, we will be developing and recognising innovation and potential successes in the sector. With regards to Collaboration, we will work alongside various industries and partners to create a unified voice and take action to tackle the problem of plastic waste recycling – making waste work, together. At the crux of our strategy is Activation – the implementation of our project funding model, education and awareness campaigns along with the launch of innovative solutions to transform consumers’ attitudes towards recycling and bring about real world change.”
She concluded: “We believe that through Polyco+, we can make our vision of a cleaner and more sustainable South Africa by 2030 a reality for all.”