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South Africa has a high recycling rate for plastics

South Africa has a high recycling rate for plastics

The latest recycling statistics have been released and the results show that South Africa has a high recycling rate for plastics. There is always room for improvement but the country currently beats many European and large nations forms around the world in terms of recycling. IWESCO offers waste control services and is invested in the environmental well-being of South Africa through these zero-waste-to-landfill initiatives.

These national statistics are updated and released annually by the PET Recycling Company (PETCO) and the Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation (Polyco), which are responsibility organisations for producers of plastics in South Africa. After a long process of auditing and verification, the statistics from the 2019 recycling survey have been released.

PET recycling rate in South Africa

According to the results, 62% of all polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles sold in South Africa were recycled in 2019. This places South Africa on par with current global recycling rates for PET plastic. This type of plastic is one of the most common due to its durability and flexibility. It is used to create plastic beverage bottles and a variety of other containers for liquids, condiments and food items.

In total, 95 879 tonnes of post-consumer PET bottles were collected and processed by recycling facilities across the country. This volume of plastic would have occupied just under 600 000 cubic metres of landfill space and contributed to 144 000 tonnes of carbon emissions, but instead was recycled and reused. PET recycling is one of the largest sectors in the waste industry.

It currently creates around 65 900 jobs for South Africans - both official waste collectors and informal pickers. As a result, an estimated R1.1-billion is injected into the South African economy due to the manufacturing, distribution and sale of recycled PET (rPET) products. This is proof that the recycling industry is well-established and a vital component of environmental management and the national economy.

South African HDPE recycling rate

Another common type of plastic is high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This polymer is commonly used to manufacture milk bottles, juice bottles and durable plastic containers. Currently, 75% of the HDPE manufactured in South Africa is recycled. The higher recycling rate is largely due to the design of HDPE products; they are heavier, free from ink and other pollutants and use HDPE caps and lids that make them easier to recycle without having to separate elements of the product.

The current demand for white or clear HDPE plastic is high in South Africa as it is used to manufacture various recycled products. HDPE is one of the most-recycled polymers in South Africa due to its durability. The bulk of recycled HDPE is used to manufacture shopping bags, bin bags, irrigation pipes and fence poles.

These statistics show that plastics recycling in South Africa is a valuable sector, not just for the national economy but also for the protection of the environment and the sustainability of existing landfills. South Africans are being actively encouraged to continue their recycling practices at home and at work. This will ensure that future improvement in these statistics is guaranteed and that we continue to lead by example.


IWESCO offers specialised cleaning and waste control services to industrial and commercial customers in South Africa. These services are aimed at minimising our customers’ impact on the environment. Our services also include pest control, garden maintenance, fogging and disinfecting. Our staff are highly trained to offer the most professional services. IWESCO is a Level 2 B-BBEE supplier with ISO 14001 certification for environmental management.


We are a one-stop shop for all your contract cleaning and waste control needs and have a national footprint. Our head office is located in Tshwane but we can provide services to any industrial and commercial client in the major metropolitan areas around South Africa, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mbombela and more.


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