One of the most common plastic packaging polymers is polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This plastic is highly durable and naturally colourless – making it ideal for protective food, beverage and product packaging. It is also easy to recycle and can be turned into numerous recycled products, adding to its popularity across the globe.
South Africa has some of the highest recycling rates in the world – 74 328 tonnes of PET plastic was recycled in 2018, making it the second most recycled polymer in the country. PET is so easily recycled in South Africa that we imported 5136 tonnes from foreign countries last year to boost the local recycling industry.
PET recycling is a successful industry
PET packaging is recycled into plastic fibres that are then sold to suppliers who manufacture various products. This recycled PET (rPET) is used to make plastic vehicle components, clothing, textiles and more packaging materials. Clothing and footwear account for one of the largest market segments for rPET; just under 15% of all rPET is used to manufacture polyester fibres for clothing and shoes.
The South African plastics industry has invested heavily in rPET. Post-consumer PET packaging and beverage bottles are also recycled into new plastic bottles, plastic sheeting and thermoformed punnets for food. rPET is the only recycled material that can be used in food-contact applications because it is 100% non-toxic and will not contaminate food and drinks with chemicals.
PET has a number of beneficial properties
PET is an ideal packaging material because of its unique properties. It is virtually shatterproof, which means that it forms a durable protective coating around food and products. It is also non-reactive and non-toxic, so food and products will not be contaminated by the packaging.
PET is also very cost-effective to produce and recycle. These properties of the polymer make PET an unbeatable material for consumer product packaging and polyester clothing fibres. It is widely recycled across the globe, but even more so in South Africa thanks to our strong and resilient recycling industry.
Plastics SA represents all sectors of the South African plastics industry. Together with our associations, we play an active role in the growth and development of the industry and strive to address plastics related issues, influence role-players and make plastics the material of choice.
Plastics SA has been mandated to ensure a vibrant and sustainable plastics industry in South Africa. The plastics sector is uniquely placed to meet the needs of a sustainable society and to deliver solutions to many challenges such as recycling, climate change, water scarcity, resource usage and energy recovery.