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11% of South Africans committed to recycling, research finds

| Going green

Baseline consumer research, commissioned at the end of 2016, profiles current attitudes towards recycling in South Africa and where our nation sits on PETCO’s Consumer Engagement Journey. Of the South Africans interviewed (LSM 7 to 10, ages 18 to 49, nationwide), 67% claim to recycle ‘some’ of the time, while only 11% claim to recycle ‘all’ of the time.


The lack of storage space at home, and the absence of ‘easily accessible’ recycling depots were cited as two of the biggest barriers. Encouragingly, many would be happy to take their recycling to central depots if they did exist and were close enough to their homes.
The main benefit of recycling is seen to be an environmental one within this target audience – 47% spontaneously mentioned the benefits of recycling on the environment – whilst economic motivators were cited as the most important amongst the lower LSM respondents.
“PETCO is encouraged by the research findings, which now provides us with a clear baseline from which we can plot our consumer awareness and engagement strategy,” says CEO Cheri Scholtz. “We know that consumers are generally willing to recycle, but only when it is made easy for them to do so. Our engagement strategy is focussed on increasing the level of consumer awareness and understanding, so that we can ensure households will take advantage of recycling processes and procedures as they become available.”
PETCO, the organization responsible for fulfilling the South African PET plastic industry’s role of Extended Producer Responsibility, has recently also released their 2016 recycling figures which shows an increase in their annual PET recycling rate from 52% of post-consumer bottle PET in 2015 to 55% in 2016.
While PETCO is extremely pleased with these results, Scholtz is frank about the challenges; “We know that growing our recycling rates will mean facing some hurdles, which includes creating higher demand for products made from recycled plastics. The greater the demand, the more this will ‘pull through’ the supply chain and stimulate activity. This will take considerable investment in infrastructure, innovation and encouragement from both private and public sectors. We believe consumers have a large role to play in this regard.”
PETCO’s primary focus is to increase consumer’s access to accurate information about PET recycling within the South African context, and increase their knowledge of recycling and the mechanisms by which they can participate in the recycling process. By increasing their access to knowledge and information, PETCO aims to motivate increasing numbers of consumers to participate in collection and recycling behaviour.
“While many consumers may be aware that embracing a recycling lifestyle is essential for a sustainable future, most are not acting on this awareness. It’s important for conscious consumers to participate in kerbside projects where these exist, support community projects and drop off sites, and use their influence and buying power to drive positive recycling behaviour through demanding products containing recycled content,” concludes Scholtz.

Fig 1: The journey that PETCO should take the consumer on, moving from superficial awareness of the issues to a deeper, more entrenched, understanding of the complex work undertaken by the South African PET industry through PETCO

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