South Africa, Rwanda up game in reducing plastic waste pollution promoting circular economy

SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa has made significant strides in boosting recycling of plastic bottles with the launch of a new novel labelling technique, as Rwanda’s private sector is set to plough in huge amount of funds to facilitate collection, transportation, disposal and recycling of single-use plastics in the next five years.

South African PET plastic bottle recyclers Extrupet and PETCO, in partnership with drinking water bottler Oasis Water, label manufacturer UPM Raflatac and label printers Java Print, have unveiled a new wash-off label adhesive placed on bottles.

The ground-breaking solution renders plastic bottles with self-adhesive labels fully recyclable, promising positive spin-offs for the environment and plastic producers, who have until November to comply with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), legislated in terms of Section 18 of the National Environmental Management Waste Act.

The new government legislation requires producers in the packaging sector – the brand owner of products using the packaging, the retailer in the case of house brands, or the importer of goods contained in packaging – to be responsible not only for health and safety issues associated with their products, but also for the management of packaging waste, including collection, sorting and recycling.

While the regulations were effective from May 5 this year, existing producers have six months to register as a producer and join a registered PRO such as PETCO, or establish and implement compliant EPR schemes individually.

“The recycling of packaging does not begin with its collection, but rather with its design. In ensuring the circular transition for plastics and plastic packaging, design for recycling is among the key aspects.”

PETCO CEO – Cheri Scholtz

Novel labelling solution

Until now, PET bottles with adhesive labels hampered South African recycling processes, because the glue from the labelling discoloured the recyclate.

This meant that discoloured recycled PET (rPET) from those bottles could not be repurposed into high-quality, clear plastic beverage bottles, but only be used to produce a limited range of products.

To this end, post-consumer Extrupet trialled the new wash-off label adhesive in April in conjunction with PETCO, UPM Raflatac, Java Print and Oasis Water, extensively testing 10 000 Oasis Water bottles that featured the new labelling.

“Lab results following the trial have shown a more than satisfactory result,” said Extrupet joint managing director Chandru Wadhwani, adding that the new wash-off label adhesive used in the trial easily washed off the PET flakes created as the plastic bottles underwent recycling.

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“The chemical composition of the new wash-off label adhesive makes it easier to remove during recycling, and the glue retention on the label has met our recycling standards requirements,” he said.

Rethinking plastic packaging design to facilitate recycling was a vital step towards sustainable production and consumption, and companies that didn’t comply would find it increasingly difficult to compete in global markets.

“The recycling of packaging does not begin with its collection, but rather with its design. In ensuring the circular transition for plastics and plastic packaging, design for recycling is among the key aspects.

“Compatibility of materials, easy separation and the use of additives, among other features, play a role in determining the recyclability of a given product.” PETCO CEO Cheri Scholtz said.

Oasis Director Naas du Preez water welcoming the new Section 18 requirements stated, “Although we use [recycling friendly] wrap-around labels as far as possible, the new wash-off labelling will feature on our products with self-adhesive labels as soon as possible.”

Rwanda launches sustainable management of single-use Plastics project

Meanwhile in Rwanda, the Private Sector Federation (PSF) is set to contribute Rwf690.9 million (US$692, 000) for collecting, transportation, disposal and recycling of single-use plastics in the next five years.

The project dubbed “Sustainable Management of single-use Plastics Project” was launched as Rwanda celebrated World Environment Day under the theme “Ecosystem Restoration”.

The new development is in line with Law N° 17/2019 of 10/08/2019 relating to the prohibition of manufacturing, importation, use and sale of plastic carry bags and single-use plastic items.

The law aims to protect the environment, the economy and the health of the people from throwaway plastics.

Under the project, PSF will support resource mobilization from the private sector institutions and make sure that every eligible institution/company contributes on time.

According to the 2018 UN Environment report on Single-use plastics, the world produces more than 400 million tons of plastics every year of which only 9 per cent is recycled.

If current consumption patterns and waste management practices do not improve, by 2050 there will be about 12 billion tons of plastic litter in landfills and the natural environment.

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