Polypropylene (PP) is one of the most widely-recycled packaging polymers in South Africa. It is used to manufacture dairy containers, plastic furniture, homeware and a variety of other semi-flexible products. PP is quite easy to recycle and has many beneficial uses – including the manufacture of fibres for woven products.
Most of the plastics used for packaging applications are mechanically recycled in South Africa. These materials are often picked, sorted and washed by hand before being processed. PP follows a similar process when it is sent to a recycling facility to be turned into recyclate. The plastic pellets can either then be melted into other PP products or extruded into a fibre.
How PP packaging is recycled
Firstly, discarded PP packaging is collected by waste management companies and informal waste pickers working at local landfills. They source and collect the plastic before bailing them into bundles for transport. These bundles of plastic waste are then taken to recycling facilities where the process begins.
The plastic bundles are undone and the waste materials are separated by polymer type and grade. Due to the many applications and products made using PP, these materials will have various qualities. The plastic waste is cleaned thoroughly to remove any dirt and contaminants. This makes sure that the PP recyclate batch is pure. Any contaminants or debris could spoil the entire batch and ruin the quality of the end product.
The PP waste is shredded into small bits. These particles are then fed into a large heated extruder which melts the plastic and extrudes it into fibres. These fibres of PP polymer are either sold to textile companies for use in woven products, or they are cut into pellets and bailed for sale to plastics manufacturers. Recycled PP is used to manufacture numerous products, such as garden twine, dustbins, shopping baskets, coathangers, flower pots and outdoor furniture.
PP can be reused in the home
This polymer is highly durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. Consumers should always aim to reuse their PP dairy tubs and homeware before discarding them. Ice cream tubs are the perfect storage containers for leftover food. They also make quick and easy water bowls for pets. Similarly, butter tubs can be used to store workshop equipment or any bits and bobs needed around the house.
The flexibility, durability and non-toxicity of this polymer lends itself to reuse in the home, making PP a highly valuable plastic. By reusing these products, consumers can save a lot of money. If discarding PP is necessary, at least it can be easily recycled, which benefits the local economy and the environment.
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.