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SA: Plastic bottle trash generates 26 000 jobs

This was the upbeat message from the CEO of PETCO, Cheri Scholtz, on the second day of the South African National Bottled Water Association’s Conference in Midrand, Gauteng, this week. PETCO is the industry organisation responsible for PET recycling in South Africa.

In a presentation entitled “PET Recycling in South Africa – Plastic Bottles are not Trash”, Scholtz informed delegates that PETCO and its recycling initiatives have become a global benchmark for extended producer responsibility because of its success to bale-by-bale, year-by-year, reduce the volume of post-consumer PET plastic in the waste stream.

Working with collectors, recyclers, converters and packaging designers to ensure the successful growth of the PET recycling industry, PETCO is well on the way to achieving its challenging target of recycling 50% of all beverage PET by 2015.

This would not be possible without the voluntary financial support from PETCO’s members who have all helped launch a consumer engagement campaign using the compelling slogan: “PET bottles are not trash” – a simple slogan to start motivating consumers.

When coupled with thought-provoking headlines, compelling facts and figures, and superb photographs of PET bottles that showcase them as objects of value, PETCO is hoping that consumers will begin to reconsider their attitudes to PET and take a bold, successful step towards an inclusive and environmentally sustainable future.

Extrupet’s COO, Chandru Wadhwani, carried on the theme set by Scholtz when he addressed designing for recycling.

“The dilemma for bottle converters to meet challenging customer demands for ‘marketing friendly’ packaging while at the same time meeting the demands of the Waste Act to be responsible producers’ is an ever growing one,” he said.

“No longer is it sufficient for packaging to just be ‘recyclable’, it must be able to demonstrate that it is in fact being recycled. Designing packaging with recycling in mind from the offset is critical in determining its final recyclability as recyclers are ever cautious about which ‘packs’ they will accept, and which they will not.

“Ultimately, there is a ‘win/win’ approach that can be achieved from pro-active engagement between the designers of packaging and recyclers so we can all ultimately achieve a ‘cradle to cradle’ solution for packaging,” Wadhwani said.

Parsons and Associates Specialist Groundwater Consultants’ Roger Parsons iterated that water is the key component of any bottled water operation, and without it there simply will be no business. It thus requires a high degree of protection.

He suggested that the protection of source water entails four main components, namely understanding the water resource, identifying vulnerabilities and opportunities of the source, undertaking measurements and monitoring and reviewing and revising the management of the water source.

Using a series of case studies, his presentation demonstrated the components of source protection and assessed the approach adopted by SANBWA.

Putting theory into practice, General Manager The Coca-Cola Company’s PlantBottle Packaging Platform, Scott Vitters, took delegates through the launch of its PlantBottle package.

Moving beyond aspirational statements, this eliminates the dependence of PET plastic packaging on fossil-based materials. Today the company has already introduced 10-billion bottles with its first generation PlantBottle packaging technology in 20 countries and recently announced partnerships for commercializing the first 100% renewable PET plastic bottle that is fully recyclable.

SANBWA’s conference is running in parallel to DrinkTech, the exhibition for the bottled water industry that takes place every second year, Africa’s Big Seven (AB7) exhibition, a ‘seven-in-one’ exhibition covering the entire food and beverage industry from ‘crop to shop’.