High-density polyethylene (PE-HD) is the third most-widely recycled polymer in South Africa. This plastic is strong, scratch-resistant and non-toxic, making it ideal for use in the beverage and packaging industry. PE-HD is an abundant material and is quite easy to recycle in South Africa. It can be turned into numerous recycled products, making it a valuable polymer that can be reused again and again.
South Africa has some of the highest recycling rates in the world – 63 038 tonnes of PE-HD plastic was recycled in 2018 alone. Of this volume, most of the PE-HD plastic came in the form of milk bottles, plastic crates and plastic drums. These materials are mainly recycled into carrier bags for grocery stores and supermarket chains.
PE-HD plastic recycling is a successful industry
PE-HD recyclate is currently in high demand due to its durability. Although recycled PE-HD is not suitable for food contact applications (like the virgin polymer is), there is a great need for the recyclate in the agricultural industry. The main bulk of PE-HD recyclate is used to manufacture irrigation pipes, feeding troughs, fence poles and weather covers for the farming sector.
PE-HD can also be recycled into various flexible packaging products, including bin liners, recycled grocery bags and wood bags. The mining industry also accounts for a large portion of PE-HD recyclate, followed by the rigid packaging and construction sectors. This polymer has a variety of uses as a recycled material in various industries in South Africa.
PE-HD has a number of beneficial properties
PE-HD is an ideal packaging material because of its unique properties. It is produced from the polymerisation of ethylene at high temperatures, making it dense and robust. It is a highly crystalline polymer with strong bonds between molecules. These properties make PE-HD a dense plastic with high strength, high temperature resistance and excellent chemical resistance.
PE-HD has excellent corrosion and scratch resistance, making it ideal for products that need to withstand wear and tear or contain harsh chemicals. It is a lightweight and non-toxic plastic that lends itself to many applications in the packaging industry and a number of other sectors. These properties make PE-HD a popular plastic polymer. It is widely recycled in South Africa thanks to our strong and resilient recycling industry.
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.