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South African fibre recycling rate plateaus

The latest data on paper recycling in South Africa shows a fall in both the recycling rate and the volume processed at the end of a decade which has largely seen sustained growth.

RecyclePaperZA says the nation recovered 1.2 million tonnes of recycled paper products in 2019, giving a recycling rate of 68.5%. That compares to 1.285 million tonnes in 2018 when the rate was said to be 71.7%. In 2016, 1.4 million tonnes were recovered for a figure of 68.4%. At that time, the association reported a 2% year-on-year growth since 2012.

Saving landfill space

Anele Sololo, general manager of RecyclePaper, points out that 88% of recovered fibre become new products locally such as cardboard boxes, paper bags and tissue. The balance is exported. More importantly, this recovered paper saved 3.6 million cubic metres of landfill space in 2019, provided an income for countless informal collectors and kept the local paper, packaging and tissue industry productive,” says Sololo.
Among the most recycled paper-based items are cardboard boxes at 71% while office paper recovery and beverage cartons are 16% and 10% respectively. ‘We continue to work with our members, along with Fibre Circle the producer responsibility organisation for our sector, to emphasis how important recycling is.’

A collective effort

Sololo highlights National Recycling Day on 18 September to emphasise that successful recycling requires a collective effort from producers, retailers and consumers and then the recycling industry from collectors to recycling mills. ‘Every company and individual in South Africa can play a part in ensuring that used paper, boxes, milk and juice cartons and paper cups get to the recycling mill and are made into new products we use every day,’ she adds. It is estimated that one job is supported by every 40 tonnes of paper recycled.

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