CLOSER INSPECTION: Dilip Jade, technical director of one of Africa’s largest PET recyclers, Extrupet, examines the company's new Sima line in Cape Town. The line produces various types of PET strapping made from 100% recycled material

New EPR legislation is a benefit, not a burden – PET recycler explains

AS companies navigate the new mandatory extended producer responsibility (EPR) landscape, a leading recycler in the plastics value chain has revealed the unexpected ease in managing its new reporting and compliance requirements as a producer.

One of the biggest recyclers of PET plastic bottles on the African continent, Extrupet, has been guided in its journey by long-standing producer responsibility organisation PETCO. At the same time – and in a first for South Africa – Extrupet is helping its long-time partner to develop an additional end-use market for recycled PET (rPET) in the manufacture of rPET industrial strapping.

Plastic strapping is used extensively to secure unstable goods during transit. From a circular economy perspective, both PET bottles and PET strapping can be diverted from landfill, and economically recovered and recycled into new products, without compromising the quality of the end product.

As a manufacturer of strapping, Extrupet, like other packaging producers, is now obligated to either join an existing producer responsibility organisation (PRO), start a new PRO or run an individual compliance scheme, as part of the National Environmental Management Waste Act (NEMWA) Section 18 mandatory EPR regulations, which came into effect on November 5 last year.

Extrupet is currently the only strapping producer registered to meet its mandatory EPR obligations with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.

“Many companies are still importing rPET strapping, so closing the loop locally provides another high-value end-use for rPET, aside from bottle-to-bottle recycling, or turning it into polyester staple fibre,” said Extrupet joint managing director, Chandru Wadhwani.

While clear PET plastic bottles had the highest commercial value for bottle-to-bottle recycling, Wadhwani explained that green and brown PET bottles had limited end-use products associated with them, because they discoloured the recyclate and could not be used for bottle-to-bottle recycling.

“In the past, plastic strapping has provided a viable end-use market for coloured rPET. As producers begin to move away from coloured to clear bottles for maximum recyclability, the clear bottles can now also serve as feedstock for strapping,” he said.


Potentially complex compliance process made simpler

Describing the process of registering as a producer member of an experienced PRO like PETCO as “smooth and easy”, Wadhwani said: “PETCO onboarded us seamlessly, guiding us through the process of setting and measuring targets, and making a potentially complex compliance process seem like plain sailing.”

Strapping falls into the PET flexibles category where legislated targets state that 50% of the product must comprise rPET, 10% must be collected, and 9% recycled. PETCO and Extrupet will be working together to achieve these mandated targets.