The plastics recycling rate in South Africa dropped last year, a victim of low oil prices and, indirectly, a system that relies heavily on people picking waste from landfills rather than a formal collection system, according to a new industry report.
The country's plastics recycling rate dropped from 22.5 percent in 2014 to 20.8 percent, according to a June 1 report from the trade group Plastics|SA.
“Analysts agree that 2015 was one of the toughest years for recyclers both locally and abroad in more than a generation, owing to historically low oil prices that led to lower polymer prices,” said Executive Director Anton Hanekom, in a statement.
“This in turn had a direct impact on the price of recycled material, which resulted in minimal growth and a slowdown in the amount of plastics we are able to divert from landfill.”
It said 310,000 metric tons (683 million pounds) of plastics were diverted from landfills last year, out of total domestic production of nearly 1.5 million tonnes (3.28 billion pounds).
Before the drop, the country's plastics recycling rate had been rising since 2009, when it was 17.2 percent, according to Plastics|SA, which is based near Johannesburg. The recycling industry had been growing 5.5 percent a year for the last five years, the group said.
The trade association called on South Africa's government to take a much bigger role, both in building curbside collection infrastructure and in expanding a voluntary fee on plastics packaging producers to support recycling.