Recycling HDPE Creates Economic Opportunities

To understand the opportunities for the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and recycled HDPE (rHDPE) markets better, Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation (Polyco) recently conducted research into the economic potential of one of its key market sectors: beverage bottles.

Mandy Naudé, CEO of Polyco said, ‘Our research has highlighted that more than 20,000 tons of HDPE beverage bottles enter the market each year and up to 17,500 tons are recycled. This amounts to 75% of HDPE beverage packaging being recycled.’

This recycled material re-enters the economy instead of polluting the environment or ending up in landfill. The research highlights that over 75% of HDPE milk and juice bottles are recycled, proving that the demand for white or transparent post-consumer HDPE products for recycling in South Africa is high. At the centre of promoting this economic potential, Polyco invests in infrastructure and end-use development that is essential to growing the waste collection, recycling and beneficiation of polyolefin plastics.

Common HDPE milk and beverage bottles are designed for recycling. They are heavy, have an HDPE cap and are free of by-products, such as ink, that pollute the recycling value chain. These design aspects make it an economically attractive material.

‘There are several market end uses that help improves the recycling rate of HDPE products by promoting the use of rHDPE content,’ Naudé, CEO of Polyco. ‘There is especially a drive for rHDPE to be used for higher-value applications, such as personal care product packaging, which requires a quality recyclate, made ideally from white milk bottles.’

The research also highlighted that due to the economic value of this HDPE material, there is at least one HDPE mechanical recycler in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces. Informal waste reclaimers predominantly operate around the big metros, with the recent research highlighting that in excess of R35 million is earned by waste reclaimers for the high-value HDPE beverage bottles that they collect.

‘It is encouraging to see industry role-players working together to take advantage of the economic opportunity that comes with recycling HDPE and creating products that have rHDPE included in the product design,’ said Naudé.

‘It is important for consumers to realise that recyclable plastic, such as HDPE, must be kept out of the landfill waste stream altogether so that we can maximise its economic value,’ concluded Naudé.