Research has highlighted that a significant proportion of consumers re-use margarine, large yoghurt, and ice-cream tubs made from polypropylene (PP), extending their lifespan and keeping these products out of landfill. Led by the Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation NPC (Polyco), the ‘PP tub re-use research’ aims to guide a higher-level of repurposing for these plastic packaging items by improving their design, for re-use and recyclability.
“Polyco understands the value in research-based credible information. We initiated the research with The Moss Group to determine the extent to which margarine, ice-cream and large yoghurt tubs are re-used after their original use,” says Mandy Naudé, CEO at Polyco. “We wanted to look at this market sector and understand how much of this PP packaging material is placed on the market, how much is recycled, how much is landfilled; then calculate what percentage of these tubs are re-used in households.”
To collect this consumer data, 1550 respondents were engaged telephonically, via online surveys, face to face interviews and social media polls to get feedback on what they do with large yoghurt tubs, margarine tubs, and ice cream tubs. “More than 80% of respondents that participated in the research indicated that they repurposed these plastic tubs, most commonly for food storage, food distribution and household storage” says Naudé.
At least 103 million large yoghurt tubs, 80 million margarine tubs and 31 million ice-cream tubs are produced each year in South Africa, equating to an average of more than 10 000 tonnes of this plastic packaging entering the market. The high repurposing rate results in lower volumes of PP plastic tubs entering landfill or landing up in the natural environment.
Available beach litter data, collected around the country in 2019 and 2020 and provided by a team led by Professor Peter Ryan (UCT) and Dr Maelle Connan (NMU), supports this and indicates that these tubs make up around 3% of the 12 378 bottles and tubs catalogued.
“Supporting the efforts of our PP tub research, we will use these results to guide PP packaging producers and their customers to improve the design of tubs for repurposing,” says Naudé. “Design adjustments such as increasing the strength, improving the lid fit, and having removable labels will lead consumers to use these items as storage containers for longer.”
While the re-use rate of these PP tubs is high, the recycling rate of PP plastic products is approximately 30%. Re-using PP tubs for storage is a temporary solution and eventually these products will need to be disposed of. PP plastic tubs should be designed for circularity, not to be landfilled. Designing products for post-consumer recyclability has now been made a requirement by government.
“This consumer insight research has allowed us to understand what drives the re-use behaviour, which will be very important for brand owners, who under EPR regulations will be required to manage their products at end-of-life to prevent them going to landfill.” New extended-producer responsibility (EPR) regulations are now requiring producers to take responsibility for their products to ensure that consumers can re-use and repurpose products and then recycle them with greater ease.
Driving the market for PP recyclate, designing products for recyclability, creating accessible recycling facilities and increased consumer awareness will increase the recycling rates of these products and lower the volumes of plastic going to landfill.
To find out more about the PP tub research and Polyco, visit their website www.polyco.co.za
Packaging SA, Plastics SA, the various PRO’s and other interested parties have been engaging with Government over the past 9 months regarding the proposed Section 18 notice.
Section 18 refers to the Extended Producer Responsibility aspect of the National Environmental Management Waste Act (NEMWA) and essentially replaces Section 28 (Industry Waste Management Plans) from 2017. Whilst both Section 18 and Section 28 essentially cover Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and material recovery, we welcomed the adoption of a Section 18 process as it allows industry to raise, manage and disburse EPR fees themselves.
WHERE ARE WE NOW
On 26 June 2020 the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Ms. Barbara Creecy, published an amendment to the National Environmental Waste Act in the form of draft Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations. Members of the public and industry were given 30 days to comment and revert back to her with objections or suggested changes.
Once promulgated, the EPR Plan will substantially change the regulatory environment in South Africa, not only for producers and users of packaging, but for our various Producer Responsibility Organisations, i.e. PETCO, Polyco, the Southern African Vinyls Association (SAVA) and the Polystyrene Association of SA.
It will be the responsibility of the various Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO’s) to drive sector based waste minimisation programmes, manage financial arrangements for funds to promote the reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste; drive awareness programmes and innovate new measures to reduce the potential impact of products on health and the environment.
EXPECTED TIME FRAME FOR IMPLEMENTATION
Once approved and promulgated, producers and PRO’s will have 6 months to become compliant. However, the Minister has made it clear that she wants to implement the new regulations as soon as possible, and there is talk that it could be in place as soon as the fourth quarter of 2020. It is likely that the targets for the 1st year and reporting requirements will commence at the beginning of 2021. As currently drafted, the requirements essentially come into effect on the date of publication of the final notice, which could be as early as September 2020.
FOCUS AREAS FOR THE SA PLASTICS INDUSTRY
Of particular concern to us is ensuring that the final Section 18 notice is practical, reasonable and applicable to the South African context.
UNLOCKING THE HIDDEN VALUE OF WASTE
It is crucial that targets that are being set for the collection and recycling of the various forms of plastic, are based on the South African scenario, include local data, use our own best practice models and build on the successes that our existing PRO’s have already achieved.
A staggering 70% of the plastics that recycled in South Africa, are still obtained from landfill and other post-consumer sources.
34 % of South Africans do not have access to any waste management services. Waste management infrastructure needs to be put in place by municipalities throughout SA where concerned citizens can participate and which can deal with recyclable as well as non-recyclable waste.
Recyclables are a valuable resource and should be removed from the solid waste stream before reaching landfill where they become contaminated and extraction costly. Separation-at-source, whereby recyclable materials are separated from non-recyclables, is therefore a key success factor for all recycling.
The plastics industry is fully committed to cooperate with Government as we work to clarify the issues of concern.
For those producers who have not yet signed up to a PRO, you are advised and encouraged to join without delay. Not only will this ensure that your company is compliant and meet the obligations under the new legislation, but your input and contributions during this development stage of the game are much needed and could help to shape our industry focus and activities for many years to come.
For more information, kindly email Anton.Hanekom@plasticssa.co.za
One of the best motivating forces for recycling plastic waste comes from the income opportunities that it creates. This is why South Africa has such a large sector of informal waste pickers – citizens that collect plastic recyclables from landfills and other waste streams and sell them to recycling companies for a profit.
Waste management is an important part of society. Recycling waste not only prolongs the lifespan of plastics, but it also unlocks the value of refuse and boosts the economy. As such, a number of municipalities in South Africa are partnering with various organisations to improve waste management in these communities.
Municipal recycling programmes
One such example is Bushbuckridge Municipality in Mpumalanga, which recently partnered with the University of South Africa (UNISA) to launch a recycling programme that will empower local residents. The programme is aimed at improving residents’ knowledge about recycling, formalising income-generating opportunities from recycling plastic waste and minimising environmental pollution caused by litter.
The goal of the partnership was to develop a manageable and affordable solution for recycling in Mpumalanga. “It’s a municipality’s responsibility to address waste management issues within a society,” says Bushbuckridge Municipality waste management manager Levy Mokoena.
“Unfortunately, as a rural municipality, we generate limited revenue – which limits our waste management efforts when it comes to reaching certain parts of our jurisdiction,” he explains. “Our mission, in partnership with UNISA, is to support existing recyclers by making them realise the potential of a clean, healthy environment and opportunities to earn an income,” says Mokoena.
Government support will also help to maximise the income-generating opportunities that exist within the recycling sector. “Many recyclers have given up on their efforts because of the small amounts of money they received, unaware of the great financial potential that recycling offers,” says UNISA associate professor in environmental issues Fani Machete.
Businesses can play a role in local recycling initiatives
Businesses operating in South Africa can also support a formalised recycling industry. Polyco, a local organisation that focuses on Polyolefin plastics recycling and recovery, has been running a campaign called ‘Packa-Ching’. A recycling truck and trailer parks in designated communities on a weekly basis, where residents can sell their recyclable waste.
Community members can sell their plastic, paper, glass and metal waste to the truck driver. The waste is weighed and the prices for the materials are set according to current market values. Residents are paid into their eWallets without delay. These recyclable materials are loaded into the trailer and taken to local recycling facilities. Packa-Ching is aimed at making recycling more convenient and adding monetary rewards for separating recyclable waste in households.
Another business-led initiative has been started by a multinational brewing and alcoholic beverage company, Distell. The company launched a local recycling project called ‘GreenUp’. Distell partnered with an organisation called Separation at Source (S@S) to launch the project in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
GreenUp aims to establish formalised and effective value chains when it comes to the collection, separation and processing of plastic recyclables in Khayelitsha – home to around 450 000 residents. GreenUp will implement collection points and formal agreements between waste pickers and the buyers of recyclable waste in the area.
This will help to promote the sustainability of the local recycling sector, a well as to boost the employment opportunities in Khayelitsha. “By partnering with S@S in formalising networks or value chains in Khayelitsha’s waste management efforts, we also aid in combating socio-economic challenges, empowering individuals within this fast-growing community,” says Distell sustainability manager Eric Leong Son.
Recycling is a big industry in South Africa yet the jobs remain largely informal. Officially, the industry supports 7890 formal jobs but it is estimated that around 58 470 South Africans receive an income through the entire recycling supply chain. These income-generating opportunities are significant and they can be boosted with the help of the government and business sector.
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.