Plastics are highly valuable materials that make modern life possible. They are such a big part of our daily lives that we don’t even know we are using plastic products sometimes, such as the kettle, toothbrush and television remote. They are used everywhere – our cars, supermarkets, banks and even hospitals.
The issue is not plastics, rather the irresponsible way in which they are disposed of – particularly plastic packaging. These materials are typically single-use and they have an important role to play in the economy. Plastic packaging protects our food, drinks and goods from being damaged and rotting. They can protect our health and even save our lives.
Plastic packaging is designed to be durable and tough, so consumers need to throw it away in a recycling bin rather than dumping it on the way home from the shops. Plastic packaging can have many benefits – we just need to dispose of it correctly and ensure that it is properly recycled. Here are a few of the major benefits.
Plastic packaging helps to prevent food waste
Most of the food that we buy from supermarkets comes wrapped in plastic – whether it is our cereal, bread, sugar, vegetables or meat. These protective coatings help to prolong the freshness of our foods by keeping them dry or preventing bacteria from contaminating the produce. Without plastic packaging, our food would spoil within hours.
These materials prevent food waste by keeping the products fresh for longer. Food waste is already a problem in South Africa – we throw away almost one-third of all food before it is even sold! This equates to around 10-million tonnes of food every year. We can’t afford to waste more food by removing the plastic packaging and allowing it to rot before it can be consumed.
Plastics prevent damaged goods
Just as packaging protects food items, it does so for household goods and gadgets. Most of the products we buy are protected by plastic packaging, from books and pens to toothbrushes and sports equipment. These outer coatings act as a shield against scratches and dents that can damage products during transport.
Damaged goods either don’t sell or they have to be discounted, which causes problems for shop owners and suppliers. The plastic packaging acts as a cost-effective way to ensure that a product is delivered in perfect condition. Consumers have become fussy with these issues, demanding lower prices for usable goods with scratches and cosmetic damage.
Plastics packaging helps to retain value in the economy
The end result of plastic packaging is that it helps to retain value in the economy. Food items and goods that are protected by this packaging are sold at full price, which means that shop owners, suppliers and manufacturers benefit at the end of the day. They earn the value of their goods and are able to provide an income for their staff members. Preventing damage to goods during transport will also help to keep costs low – to the ultimate benefit of the buyer.
Plastic packaging allows the economy to function properly, securing jobs and minimising losses through damage or contamination. Plastics are highly versatile and useful materials – they just need to be reused and recycled as much as possible. Everyone has a role to play in preventing plastic pollution, not just waste management providers. We have a responsibility to the environment, but also to the economy and society.
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.