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High recycling rate of HDPE beverage bottles in SA

Over 75% of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) milk and juice bottles are recycled, according to recent research conducted by the Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation (Polyco), a not-for-profit industry body focused on reducing the amount of polyolefin waste going to landfill.

High recycling rate of HDPE beverage bottles in SA

Polyco says these findings show that the demand for white or transparent post-consumer HDPE products for recycling in South Africa is high.

Being at the centre of promoting this economic potential, Polyco invests in infrastructure and end-use development that is essential to grow the waste collection, recycling and beneficiation of polyolefin plastics.

Common HDPE milk and beverage bottles are designed for recycling. They are heavy, have a 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, according to the organisation.

Promoting the use of recycled HDPE


“There are several market end uses that help improve the recycling rate of HDPE products by promoting the use of recycled HDPE (rHDPE) content,” says Mandy Naudé, CEO of Polyco. “There is especially a drive for rHDPE to be used for higher value applications, such as personal care product packaging, which requires a quality recyclate, made ideally from white milk bottles.”

To understand the opportunities for the HDPE and rHDPE markets better, Polyco conducted research into the economic potential of one of its key market sectors, beverage bottles.

“Our research has highlighted that more than 20,000 tonnes of HDPE beverage bottles enter the market each year and up to 17,500 tonnes are recycled. This amounts to 75% of HDPE beverage packaging being recycled,” says Naudé. This recycled material re-enters the economy instead of polluting the environment or ending up in landfill.


Economic value of HDPE material


The research also highlighted that due to the economic value of this HDPE material, there is at least one HDPE mechanical recycler in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces. Polyco says that informal waste reclaimers predominantly operate around the big metros, with the recent research highlighting that in excess of R35m is earned by waste reclaimers for the high value HDPE beverage bottles that 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,” says Naudé.

“It is important for consumers to realise that recyclable plastic, such as HDPE, must be kept out the landfill waste stream altogether so that we can maximise its’ economic value,” she concludes.

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