Key statistics from latest recycling report

Plastics SA recently released the latest recycling report that details the state of the South African plastics recycling industry. South Africa is amongst the best countries in the world when it comes to plastics recycling. Even developed nations with sophisticated collection and sorting systems do not recycle as much plastic as South Africa.

The recycling report outlines a number of statistics and key findings about the industry. Recyclers, waste management companies and the government can use the report to improve current recycling rates and build better infrastructure. Here are some of the major statistics from the report:

  • South Africa collected 519 370 tonnes of plastics for recycling in 2018 – 6.7% more than the previous year.
  • Of this volume, we processed 352 000 tonnes of plastic waste and turned it into raw material and recycled products – breaking the 350 000 tonne barrier for the first time ever.
  • South Africa recycled 46.3% of all plastic products in 2018, whereas Europe only recycled 31.1%, making us a world-leader in mechanical recycling. 
  • South Africa currently recycles around 67% of all plastic PET bottles produced – this figure was 55% in 2016. 
  • Plastics recycling also saved 246 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions; the equivalent to the greenhouse gases produced by 51 200 vehicles.
  • The tonnages recycled into raw materials saved enough barrels of oil to fuel 200 000 cars for one year, doing 30 000 km per annum.
  • Total South African converter demand reached 1.544-million tonnes of virgin polymer – an increase of 3.5% from the previous year and accounting for 0.4% of the world’s plastics production.
  • 34.1% of South Africans do not have access to regular waste collection services.
  • Recycling tonnages have grown by 64% since 2009. 
  • Virgin polymer production has grown since 21% since 2009.
  • 70% of all recyclable materials originate from landfills and other post-consumer sources.
  • South Africa has 300 active recycling companies.
  • The top 30 recyclers in South Africa currently process 54% of the country’s plastic waste.
  • Gauteng has half of all recycling companies in South Africa. They handle 58% of the country’s recyclate.
  • The plastics recycling industry provides direct, formal employment for over 7890 people. The industry creates a further 58 470 income-generating jobs.
  • Through the procurement of recyclables, an estimated R2.3-billion was injected into the South African economy in 2018.
  • The buying prices of recycled plastics grew by 15% in the last year.


Plastics SA represents all sectors of the South African plastics industry. ​Together with our associations, we play an active role in the growth and development of the industry and strive to address plastics related issues, influence role-players and make plastics the material of choice.

​Plastics SA has been mandated to ensure a vibrant and sustainable plastics industry in South Africa. The plastics sector is uniquely placed to meet the needs of a sustainable society and to deliver solutions to many challenges such as recycling, climate change, water scarcity, resource usage and energy recovery.

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