"Glass recycling has become a national government priority following on the success of the 'plastic bag' drive, which has helped significantly reduce plastic waste," said Environmental Affairs and Tourism deputy minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi.
The plastic bag recycling campaign said shops could only use plastic bags of a certain thickness and must charge for them, in an effort to encourage reuse. Complaints that the initial levy of up to 46c a shopping bag was too high saw the charge reduced.
Every year SA produces about 700000 tons of glass containers, equivalent to about 2,5-billion bottles, but only recycles 20% of them, compared with about 45% in Britain and 81% in Germany.
National Glass Recycling Forum spokesman Mike Arnold said the average glass recycling levy of R0,007c a bottle added by manufacturers would not be felt by consumers because the price of a bottled product in stores depended on many other things as well.
Mabudafhasi said a memorandum of understanding between the recycling forum and the government signed yesterday aims to drive glass recycling up to 50% a year within five years.
Manufacturers will invest in new infra-red technology which will decontaminate and colour-sort the glass, making it easier and cheaper for collectors to deliver batches. The first high-tech glass processing facility has been installed at Consol Glass's Bellville factory outside Cape Town.
Increased recycling will create more job opportunities in both the formal and informal sector.
The current deposit system, where consumers can return bottles to retail outlets and recover their deposit, is a voluntary system implemented by some companies, and it will continue.
The recycling forum said the initiative was not affected by the complaint currently before the competition authorities about Consol and Nampak colluding to fix the price of waste glass between 1999 and 2002.
This model has been structured so that suppliers of waste glass would be able to negotiate independently with the packaging groups on the deal that would suit them best. The Competition Commission was included in the process that led to the memorandum of understanding.