SONA 2020 – How does this impact the Plastics Industry?

On Thursday evening, 13 February 2020, millions of South Africans were glued to their television sets to watch President Cyril Ramaphosa deliver his State of the Nation Address…

Have your say – Draft Position Paper on biodegradable and compostable packaging

The South African Initiative to End Plastic Waste has initiated a process of developing a position paper on biodegradable and compostable packaging in South Africa.

The objectives of this paper are two-fold:
● To provide a balanced perspective and consolidated position for South Africa with regard to biodegradable and compostable packaging, based on sound research and stakeholder inputs.
● To be used to inform players across the value chain, as well as other interested stakeholders around the responsible manufacture, use, management and disposal of biodegradable and compostable packaging.

The paper focuses specifically on the country’s current capacity to responsibly integrate these materials into the existing packaging economy and looks to provide direction on what is required going forward. A supplementary document, “Material types and applications”, highlights the raw material sources, manufacturing process, properties of the polymers, range of applications and end of life fate.

The draft paper is based on a review of academic literature, relevant international standards and engagement with academics and a number of key stakeholders across the value chain, including manufacturers, importers and distributors of the materials, retailers and brand owners, recyclers and commercial composters. In addition, inputs from the Biodegradables discussion group at the recent Plastics Colloquium have been considered.

The draft paper has been approved by the members of the SA Initiative Working Group and is now open for comment from all other interested parties. The paper is available for download:

Draft Position Paper for comment

Material Types and Applications Draft for comment

Please could you forward any comments or suggestions to the Working Group at feedback@mossgroup.co.za as soon as possible.

Polystyrene successes in South Africa

Polystyrene (PS) is the sixth most widely recycled polymer in South Africa. This plastic is lightweight and durable.  It is most commonly used in the food and restaurant industry. In fact, just over 5500 tonnes of PS was recycled in South Africa last year. Polystyrene is one of the most widely-used polymers for food storage and takeaway containers, making it a valuable polymer for the economy.

 

South Africa has some of the highest recycling rates in the world – last year we recycled 15% more plastic than Europe. Of this volume, PS packaging was the sixth highest polymer in terms of volume processed. Most of the PS plastic waste are fruit and vegetable punnets, meat punnets, takeaway cups and plastic cutlery. These materials are recycled into seedling trays, toys, hair combs and lightweight cement blocks for the building industry.

 

PS recycling is a successful industry

PS waste is a fairly common material processed at South African recyclers because it is readily available due to its popularity in various industries. PS is popular in retail applications, such as clear food containers, as well as in the food and drinks sector. It also has many uses in the construction industry as expanded polystyrene is a perfect insulator and lightweight building material.

 

The end-markets for clear containers and expanded packaging polymers, such as PS, are growing steadily year-on-year. The biggest end-market for recycled PS is plastic furniture, followed by domestic houseware. A small portion of recycled PS is sold to the construction sector, although this is a rapidly-growing end-market for this type of recyclate.

 

PS has a number of beneficial properties

PS is a unique combination of durability, economic viability and environmental performance. It has a low carbon footprint and uses very little energy to manufacture and recycle. One of the main advantages of expanded polystyrene is its resistance to heat, making it ideal for use as coffee cups, food containers and cutlery. PS is non-toxic and non-reactive, which makes it perfect for food contact applications and to prolong the shelf life of edible products.

 

High-impact PS is transparent and durable, which is why it is commonly used for fruit punnets and CD cases. It shows off the product contained within, while also protecting it during transport and sale. This type of PS is also used to make retail coat hangers, laboratory ware, printers and keyboards, as well as computer and television housings.

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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.

 

For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Plastic packaging type 5 – PP

Modern life as we know it would not be possible without plastics and plastic packaging. They keep our goods protected, our food fresh and are vital for the functioning of daily life, whether we are aware of it or not. Plastics has many advantages, including cost-effective production and being easy to recycle and reuse. Plastics need to be recycled properly in order to maximise their economic value and to minimise their environmental impact.

 

To understand more about plastics, we will shed some light on the different types of polymer, their benefits and their recyclability properties, including what products can be made from recycled plastic. We will go according to the material identification codes found on plastics. These are numerical symbols from one to seven that are used to identify the type of plastic.

 

This coding system is used around the globe by recyclers, waste management companies and plastics manufacturers. It enables them to separate and sort plastics so that they can be processed according to the main polymer present. All plastic packaging should display these material identification codes. The fifth polymer used for plastic packaging is polypropylene (PP).

 

What is PP?

 

PP is a hardy, flexible and versatile polymer that is used to manufacture a variety of moulded products, such as dairy tubs for butter and ice cream, plastic furniture, buckets, car bumpers, fibres and woven cloth. PP is the fourth-most commonly recycled polymer in South Africa due to its various applications in daily life. Just under 62 000 tonnes of PP were recycled in South African facilities during the 2018 financial year.

 

Polypropylene is a member of a group of plastics known as polyolefins. Structurally, it is similar to polyethylene, the difference being that every other carbon in the backbone chain has a methyl group attached to it. Its durability and flexibility make it the perfect polymer for packaging and woven products. Recycling figures for PP over the past five years have shown steady growth, year-on-year. This can be attributed to the fact that more applications are being developed for PP and that a well-established collection network exists.

 

Benefits of PP packaging

 

PP has numerous unique characteristics that make it a valuable packaging material. It is one of the most widely-used plastics in everyday life. PP holds colour well, doesn’t absorb water and is ideal for such robust applications as moulded luggage and storage boxes, woven bags and carpet backings, houseware and tools. Its flexibility also allows plastics manufacturers to make hinged products from PP, such as clip-on lids for plastic containers.

 

PP is a non-toxic and non-reactive plastic, so it can be used in the food and beverage industry to store goods for consumption. The hollow nature of the fibre gives it excellent water (and sweat) absorption properties in clothing and other woven fabrics. These characteristics and benefits make PP a highly valuable plastic packaging material and one of the most recycled polymers in South Africa.

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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.

 

For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

How PE-LD plastic is recycled in South Africa

Low-density polyethylene (PE-LD) is the most widely-recycled packaging polymer in South Africa. It is used to manufacture grocery packets, plastic films, plastic sheets, flexible hoses and cable insulation. PE-LD is fairly easy to recycle and has many beneficial uses – making it the most popular packaging material in the country.

 

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. PE-LD follows a similar process when it is sent to a recycling facility to be turned into recyclate. Interestingly, there is a 100% conversion rate for PE-LD, meaning that none of the recyclate is wasted or left behind.

 

How PE-LD is recycled

 

Firstly, discarded PE-LD packaging is collected by waste management companies and informal waste pickers working at landfills. They source and collect the plastic before bailing them into bundles for transport. These compacted bundles of PE-LD waste are then taken to recycling facilities where the process begins.

 

The PE-LD bundles are undone and the plastic is separated by grade. Due to the many applications and products made using PE-LD, the materials will have various qualities. The plastic waste is cleaned thoroughly to remove any dirt, debris and contaminants. This makes sure that the PE-LD recyclate batch is pure. Any contaminants or dirt could spoil the entire batch and ruin the quality of the end product.

 

The PE-LD waste is then fed into a large shredder that turns the plastic into thin strips. These shreds of plastic sheet are then fed into a second washer and float tank, where grains of sand and dirt sink to the bottom of the water tank. The plastic floats on the surface of the water and is skimmed at the end of the tank.

 

The plastic shreds are then dried and fed into a large oven which melts the plastic into a new sheet which is cooled and dried. This sheet of PE-LD polymer is bailed and sold back to plastics manufacturers and packaging producers. Recycled PE-LD is used to manufacture numerous flexible products, such as bin liners, flexible buckets, irrigation hoses and construction sheeting.

 

PE-LD can be reused in the home

 

This polymer is highly durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear for its weight. Consumers should always aim to reuse their PE-LD packets and plastic sheets before discarding them. Sandwich bags can be washed and reused, as can Zip Lock bags. Grocery bags made from PE-LD can be used again and again when visiting the supermarkets.

 

Contractors and painters can reuse their black plastic sheeting multiple times before throwing it away. The flexibility, lightweight and durability of this polymer lends itself to multiple reuse, making PE-LD a valuable plastic. By reusing these products, consumers can save a lot of money. If discarding PE-LD is necessary, at least it can be recycled, which benefits the local economy and the environment.

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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.

 

For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Bioplastics are not the same as biodegradable plastics

When it comes to plastic alternatives, there are two materials that consumers are likely to encounter; bioplastics and biodegradable plastics. These are separate products that are often confused. People think that bioplastics and biodegradable plastics are one and the same, but in reality, they are not.

 

Both of these materials are fairly new developments that are growing in popularity around the world, as well as in South Africa. They are both marketed as alternatives to traditional plastics and are used in similar applications. However, that is where the similarities end. The differences between bioplastics and biodegradable plastics are outlined below.

 

What are these materials made from?

 

Bioplastics are not just one single material but comprise of a whole family of materials with different properties and applications. “Bioplastics” refers to plastics made from plant or other

biological materials – it does not speak to the biodegradability or compostability of the

Product. Bioplastics are made from corn, sugar cane or starch. They have the same characteristics as oil-based plastics but are made from renewable sources.

 

Biodegradable plastics, on the other hand, are made from fossil fuels such as oil. In theory, they can be degraded by biological processes. However, many so-called biodegradable plastics do not decompose as intended in the natural environment. Biodegradable plastics are not always bio-based (made from plants) and bioplastics are not always biodegradable.

 

Why use bioplastics?

 

The main benefit of bioplastics is that they are made from naturally-occuring and renewable materials. They reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and oils which also helps to lower carbon emissions. Bioplastics can be made from genetically modified plants or from natural feedstock – neither of which are food sources for humans. These resources can be regrown every year, unlike oil and fossil fuels.

 

Another advantage of bioplastics over biodegradable plastics is that they can be recycled with conventional packaging waste. Bioplastics can be processed at a recycling facility in the same way as regular plastic, whereas biodegradable plastic must be separated from the waste stream and processed separately.

 

Bioplastics are perfectly suited to mechanical recycling. On the other hand, biodegradable plastics must be sent to an industrial composting facility where they can take up to three months to decompose. Manufacturing bioplastics is a fairly complicated process and quite an energy-intensive operation, but as the technology develops and further tests are completed, we could soon see plastic products being made from green resources.

Winner of Caroline Reid Award 2019 announced

Alison Bryant of the Keep Plett Campaign is the winner of the Caroline Reid Award for the Cleanup Champion of 2019 – a  new, annual award established by Plastics|SA to recognise and reward excellence in South Africa by an individual in the field of marine and coastal clean-ups.

Making the announcement during a gala dinner to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Marine & Coastal Educators Network (MCEN) held at the Zeekoevlei Yacht Club in Cape Town last week, Douw Steyn and John Kieser of Plastics SA awarded Alison with a R10 000 cash prize and a  floating trophy.

Read more.

A brief history of the major plastic polymers

Plastics are such a vital part of modern life; we have become unaware of how much we rely on them every day. However, many plastic polymers have only been around for a few decades. Life before these innovative materials was very different. They have made modern living simpler and safer, thanks to their durability, affordability and versatility.

The first major discovery of a plastic polymer was made in 1862. Since then, new polymers have been developed and discovered continuously – rapidly increasing from the end of the 1920s. Here is a brief history of each of the major plastic polymers and how they have changed the way in which we live.

Parkesine 

First developed in 1862, Parkesine was the first man-made plastic. It’s inventor, Alexander Parkes, revealed the plant-based polymer at the Great International Exhibition in London. Parkesine is a transparent and mouldable plastic that retains its shape when cooled. It was first marketed as a cheaper alternative to rubber, allowing users to mould and create whatever they needed.

Celluloid

In 1865, John Wesley Hyatt developed a new way to make billiard balls from cellulose nitrate. This material was far cheaper than the traditional ivory balls. Soon afterward, companies began manufacturing numerous products from celluloid, such as bowls and combs, as a cheaper alternative to bone, tortoiseshell and other expensive materials.

Rayon

This modified celluloid polymer was developed in Paris by Louis Marie Hilaire Bernigaut in 1891. He was looking for a way to manufacture a substitute for silk – a polymer that could be extruded into thin, shiny strands and woven together to form a silky fabric. Bernigaut called the polymer rayon because it had a shiny appearance that reflected rays of light.

Bakelite

In 1907, a completely synthetic plastic was developed that retained its shape and form, even under stress and heat. Bakelite became extremely popular in the 1920s when numerous products were manufactured from the polymer. Plastic jewellery, telephones and clocks became popular as people embraced the unique appearance of Bakelite.

Cellophane

Cellophane was invented by a Swiss chemist in 1912 who was looking to create a waterproof tablecloth. Later, in 1927, cellophane was used to wrap sweets and candies which really punted its use in the food industry to new heights. This moisture-resistant polymer kept the sweets fresh for longer as water vapour in the air could not affect the sugary treats within the wrapping.

Vinyl

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) was developed in the 1920s to replace natural rubber. It quickly became known as one of the most versatile plastics. It is commonly used to make medical tubing, plumbing pipes and construction products. PVC can be both rigid and flexible, which was why it became so popular in a number of industries.

Polyethylene

This widely-used plastic was first developed in the 1930s in the United Kingdom. Polyethylene is the most popular polymer to date and is the mainstay of modern packaging. It is used to create polyethylene terephthalate (PET) beverage bottles, high-density polyethylene (PE-HD) containers and low-density (PE-LD) shopping bags. 

Polyvinylidene Chloride

Not to be confused with PVC, this polymer was discovered by accident in 1933. It was initially used to protect military and naval equipment from the effects of saltwater at sea due to its ability to cling to other materials and form a protective barrier. Polyvinylidene chloride is also used as a protective film for food packaging and is marketed as “Saran wrap”.

Nylon

This polymer changed the entire textiles and clothing industry. Nylon was developed in 1939, after which DuPont unveiled women’s stockings made from nylon at the World Fair in New York. Nylon quickly became an affordable man-made alternative to silk and cotton, finding particular use in military clothing during World War II.

Polyester

Polyester was first discovered in the 1940s, but only gained significant popularity in the 1950s. DuPont marketed a new fabric under the name “Dacron”, which was simply woven polyester strands. This became the first washable synthetic fabric and the textile industry has never been the same.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene (PP) came about in the 1950s but it began with a legal battle over its true inventors. It is a highly-versatile plastic that is used to manufacture a variety of moulded products, such as dairy tubs for butter and ice cream, plastic furniture, buckets, car bumpers, fibres and woven cloth. It can be used in almost all plastic applications.

Polystyrene foam

Also called expanded polystyrene, this polymer was developed in 1954 by Dow Chemicals. The company introduced the polymer under the brand name “Styrofoam” and was marketed as a lightweight protective packaging product. It is used to make packaging peanuts, takeaway food containers and coffee cups.

These polymers have become so widely used that we don’t even notice the importance of plastics in our daily lives. The innovations that led to the development of some of these products are often underappreciated. Plastics have a vital role to play in modern living, the economy and even the environment.

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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.

For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Four cool facts about plastics recycling

The main benefit of most plastics is that they are recyclable. We can keep existing materials in circulation and reuse most plastic products over and over again. Plastics are a valuable material – they are cheap to manufacture and are used in every aspect of daily life. They also require little energy to produce and recycle, making these durable products carbon-efficient.

The South African recycling industry is one of the best in the world. In 2018 alone, the sector processed 352 000 tonnes of plastic waste back into raw material. That’s 15% more than in Europe. The industry provides income opportunities for around 60 000 South Africans, contributing just under R2.3-billion to the economy. Here are four more facts about plastics recycling that you may not know:

1. Used packaging isn’t always recycled into new packaging

Recyclers clean, shred and extrude plastic waste into small pellets that are then sold back to plastics manufacturers as raw material. While certain polymers are separated from the waste stream and processed together, it does not necessarily mean that they will be turned into similar products – PET bottles don’t always get recycled back into PET bottles. Some of these plastics are turned into toys, garden furniture, clothing, duvet inners, floor mats and even car bumpers.

2. Bottles can be recycled into clothing

Building on from the previous point, plastic bottles are often turned into woven fabrics for the clothing and textile industry. The PET plastic waste is cleaned, shredded, melted and stretched into thin threads of plastic. These threads are then woven together, just like cotton, to produce rolls of material that can be turned into shopping bags, t-shirts and even fleece jackets.

3. Plastics recyclers want your lids

Many people discard their lids in the general waste bin. Bottle caps, butter tub lids and other removable lids are just as valuable as the actual containers themselves. In fact, recyclers want these plastic products because they are usually clean, label-free and easy to process. Consumers should always put the lids back on the containers and discard them in a recycling bin.

4. Plastic shopping bags can be recycled

There is a myth that plastic shopping bags cannot be recycled. While this may have been true a decade ago, new technologies and recycling processes have allowed recyclers to process thin grocery bags. The same goes for cling films, zip-lock bags, product wraps and other flexible packaging materials. In fact, shopping bags are 100% recyclable, meaning that there is no wasted material in the recycling process.

These four facts about recycling show why it is such an important industry in modern life and how it supports tens of thousands of South Africans. Every citizen has a responsibility to dispose of their plastic waste in a responsible manner by placing it in a recycling bin. Companies and plastics manufacturers are already doing everything they can to ensure that these products are used properly and are recycled effectively.

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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.

For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Tetra Pak launches first plant-based bioplastic packaging

Tetra Pak, the multinational food packaging and processing company, has become the first business in the industry to use plant-based bioplastic packaging. These polymers are created from sugarcane and form part of Tetra Pak’s commitment to follow ethical and responsible business practices, called the ‘Planet Positive’ initiative.

 

This initiative encourages industry stakeholders to take a closer look at sustainability, the low-carbon circular economy, recycling and reuse. It aims to make stakeholders think about the carbon impact of raw materials and manufacturing. 

 

Tetra Pak lowers carbon footprint

 

The use of bioplastic packaging will also lower the company’s global carbon footprint. “We’ve seen a growing trend of consumers wanting to do more for the planet, and they look to brands to help,” says the Tetra Pak vice president of sustainability, Mario Abreu.

 

The bioplastic packaging is certified by Bonsucro – an international not-for-profit organisation that aims to promote sustainable sugarcane by reducing the environmental impacts of sugarcane production. 

 

“Today, 91% of consumers look for environmental logos when shopping, and Bonsucro Chain of Custody Certification can be used to communicate credible information to consumers, thereby helping our customers differentiate their products,” explains Abreu.

 

Plant-based bioplastic packaging is fully traceable

 

According to Tetra Pak, the new bioplastic packaging is fully traceable to their sugarcane origin. “We see plant-based materials as playing a key role in achieving a low-carbon circular economy. In the future, all polymers we use will either be made from plant-based materials or from post-consumption recycled food grades,” states Abreu.

 

The use of plant-based materials such as bioplastics, instead of oil-based plastics, can help packaging manufacturers to lower their carbon emissions. These plant-based polymers are created from sustainable and renewable sources. They also help to support the agricultural sector in South Africa, especially local sugarcane plantations.

 

The sugarcane-based bioplastic is supplied to Tetra Pak by Braskem. “We have been working with Tetra Pak for more than 10 years, and Bonsucro Chain of Custody reinforces the Responsible Ethanol Sourcing Program from Braskem with the assurance and traceability of the entire sugarcane value chain, all the way back to the growers and mills,” explains Braskem renewable business leader Gustavo Sergi. 

 

Bioplastics are an emerging alternative to traditional plastics and are gaining popularity worldwide. Currently, the use of bioplastics is quite low and there are no established waste collection and recycling centres for these plant-based polymers. However, they can be recycled alongside their traditional counterparts – bioPET can be recycled with PET plastics. The more multinational companies that turn to bioplastics, the quicker these products will be refined and perfected.

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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.

For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.