Cape Town – POLYCO, the Polyolefin Recycling Company NPC, was formed in 2011 by the leading South African Polyolefin Plastic Packaging Converters, to promote the recycling of polyolefin plastics and diversion of plastic from landfill throughout South Africa. The company represents the largest plastic packaging polymer group in South Africa and is funded through the collection of a voluntary recycling levy of R110 for every ton of polyolefin polymer purchased from raw material suppliers SASOL and SAFRIPOL or imported by the packaging converters.
However, despite the successes achieved over the past five years and being able to count the leading packaging converters amongst its current members (including Afripack, Astrapack, Bowler Plastics, Boxmore, Huhtamaki, Mpact Plastics, MCG Industries, Nampak, Serioplast and Polyoak Packaging), POLYCO’s Chief Executive Officer Mandy Naudé says they need more packaging converts to sign up as members in order for them to achieve their targeted recycling rates.
Recycling more than plastics
POLYCO operates according to a self-sustaining business model whereby funds are invested into worthy polyolefin collection and recycling projects as once-off grants or interest-free loans that have to be paid back within 3 years. The money that is repaid, in effect gets “recycled” and reinvested into new recycling initiatives.
“Approximately 80 % of the funding support we provide, takes the form of the interest free loans. The remaining 20% of funding support is in the form of grants, redeemed against growth volumes. The more funding POLYCO loans to the recycling industry, the more funding income we are able to generate for further project support, without having to increase the recycling levy from converters,” Mandy explains.
Since POLYCO actively started its operations three years ago, they have already invested more than R 17 million into various separation, collection, sorting and recycling projects around South Africa, in order to increase the recycling rate polyolefin plastics. This has had a direct impact on employment, as these companies that we have partnered with were able to expand and grow their operations in both the urban and rural areas of our country.
“The IWMP has set a recycling rate target of 35% or 238 000 recycled polyolefin tonnes in the year 2020. We are currently achieving a 31.8% (171 000 tonnes) recycling rate. We are currently on track with our business model, but know that we are going to require an additional R120 million to be invested over the next four years. The only way we can do this, is by ensuring that more packaging converters come on board as members of POLYCO…” – Mandy Naudé, CEO : POLYCO
By the year 2020, POLYCO anticipates that R25-million of the forecasted R43-million project spend will be sourced from repaid loans through its self-sustaining funding model
Growing the plastics recycling industry
“The IWMP has set a recycling rate target of 35% or 238 000 recycled polyolefin tonnes in the year 2020. We are currently achieving a 31.8 % (171 000 tonnes) recycling rate. We are currently on track with our business model, but know that we are going to require an additional R120 million to be invested over the next four years. The only way we can do this, is by ensuring that more packaging converters come on board as members of POLYCO,” Mandy says.
How joining POLYCO makes a difference
Explaining the benefits of joining POLYCO or other Material Recovery Organisations (MRO’s) such as Petco, the Polystyrene Packaging Council (PSPC) or the Southern African Vinyls Association (SAVA), Mandy says it has become crucial for business to demonstrate to Government that the plastics industry in South Africa is capable of and committed to meeting Government’s environmental expectations.
“We act as the conscience of the plastics industry, by getting membership buy-in from plastic producers and spending those funds on worthy recycling initiatives that increase the recycling rate of their specific type of plastics. In POLYCO’s case, we focus on polyolefin plastics, but we work closely with all plastic MRO’s, Packaging SA and PlasticsǀSA , National Recycling Forum as well as the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO) to ensure that our members and industry players act responsibly and participate in the growth and awareness of plastics recycling”, Mandy explains.
POLYCO takes this mandate very seriously, as it is in line with Government’s principle of Extended Producer Responsibility, which requires industries to become active in recycling the products they produce as per the new Waste Management Act and the requirements of the Industry Waste Management Plan for Paper and Packaging.
“Unless we are able to demonstrate clearly that we are acting appropriately with respect to recycling of its products, Government will intervene, and the intervention could be unfavourable towards our industry,” she says.
No more “free riders”
Unfortunately, Mandy says, there are still many free-riders in the packing industry who are not adhering to the “producer pays” principle and do not belong to a material responsibility organisation (MRO). To this end, POLYCO is actively advocating for Government to make it mandatory for all packaging converters to belong to MRO’s, as these organisations are the ones investing in collection and recycling initiatives that will divert waste away from landfill.
“In the interim, however, we strongly believe that brand owners and retailers can exercise an immense influence on the packaging industry and therefore have a significant role to play in waste management and recycling,” Mandy says. “Considering that they are the people who buy the products for resale in their stores, they are the ones who should insist that their packaging suppliers are members of the relevant MRO’s and are paying the current voluntary sustainability levy, which is then used to grow collection and recycling volumes”.
Brand owners can genuinely claim that they are contributing to a greener future by helping South Africa reduce the amount of material that gets sent to landfill. By creating a greater demand and acceptance for products containing recycled materials, a “pull through” effect is developed for more recycled material, which stimulates the recycling value chain and encourages more material to be collected and recycled. This secondary recycling economy supports enterprise development and job creation. Ultimately the entire country benefits by cleaning up our environment and reducing the amount of visible litter on our streets.