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“When we increase recycling, we reduce the impact of plastic.”

The PET industry promotes producer responsibility.

Kara Levy always had a passion for sustainability and the environment. Even as a Marketing student, she wanted to use her skills to increase environmental awareness. Now, as Marketing Officer for the PET Recycling Company – PETCO, she does exactly that.

PETCO is the national PET extended producer responsibility body. It is a non-profit organisation made up of members from the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) industry and value chain. PET is the plastic used to make most plastic bottles.

“Certain varieties of post-consumer PET are highly recyclable, and therefore have monetary value. Recycled PET or “rPET” is used in pillows, duvets, reusable shopping bags, carpets, jeans, fleece jackets and of course new PET bottles!”

Extended Producer Responsibility

PETCO aims to increase the recycling rate of post-consumer PET.

“We are financed by the PET industry. With these funds, we promote sustainable growth in PET recycling. Through PETCO, the producers of PET offer financial support to keep PET out of the environment. This is called Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR.”

PETCO financially supports recyclers when they pay for PET Bottles. “This enables our recycling partners to buy from waste collectors. This is how we guarantee that there is value for the bottles, to prevent the situation where the bottle price becomes so low that waste collectors stop collecting it. We further support the value chain by signing contracts with our recycling partners to collect and process agreed volumes of PET.

PETCO also supports collectors through the sponsorship of equipment like trailers, trollies and PPE. We also offer training.”

Design for Recycling

“We work together with producers to design their products in a way that supports recycling. Design decisions have a great impact on the recycling rate. If PET bottles are brightly coloured or opaque, they are more difficult to recycle and more likely to end up in landfill. Any ink on the bottle pollutes the PET material - this can even be as small as a date code. Instead of printing on the bottle, it is better to use a label. This is called Design for Recycling.”

To promote Design for Recycling, PETCO published a set of guidelines on how to design PET plastic packaging in a way that increases the recycling rate.

Awareness and education

Kara firmly believes in the power of education. In 2020, PETCO produced educational material for grades 1-3 in partnership with the Pick n Pay Schools club. This course teaches learners about waste and recycling. The material is integrated into CAPS the curriculum, with the material for grades 4-6 currently under development. “Our five year partnership ensures that we develop content for all grades, up to grade 12.”

Consciousness over convenience

“To achieve a #ZeroWaste world, we must put consciousness over convenience. In order to reduce waste, we must improve the process of design, consumption, waste, collection and recycling. Producers must take responsibility, and consumers must make conscious choices and refuse, reduce, reuse and then recycle their waste.”

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