Category Archives for "Industry News"

Plastics SA hosts four clean-up projects

Participants at one of Plastics SA four projects

September 2019 is Clean-up and Recycle SA month – a time to unite and tackle litter and pollution in the environment. Plastics SA encourages all forms of pollution eradication, and as such, has already hosted four clean-up projects this year. We have installed a river catchment project, hosted Operation Clean Sweep, run educational demonstrations and led a fishing line bin installation project. Find more about these projects below:

River catchment project

Plastics SA recently teamed up with environmentalists in Durban to tackle ocean pollution. The team installed a litter boom where the Umbilo and Umhlatuzana Rivers meet before they enter the Durban Harbour, to catch any floating waste before it enters the Indian Ocean.

These booms are designed to trap litter that is washed down the rivers from upstream. The booms also allow for the trapped litter to be collected from a single point. These devices doe not pose a risk to any species found in the rivers. This river catchment project has helped to eradicate a large amount of litter that would certainly have found its way into the ocean environment. 

Litter collected in a river boom

Operation Clean Sweep

Operation Clean Sweep has been an ongoing project of Plastics SA since 2017. This initiative aims for zero plastic pellet, flake or powder loss at plastics manufacturing facilities in South Africa. By preventing particles of plastic from being washed into drains or blown away in the wind at the source, we can minimise the presence of the particles in the environment.

The Operation Clean Sweep pledge has been signed by a number of plastics manufacturers, producer responsibility organisations, recyclers, retailers and representative associations. Every segment of the plastics industry has a role to play in minimising plastic pellet loss, by implementing good housekeeping and pellet, flake, and powder containment practices.

Educational initiatives

Plastics SA partnered with AquaAmazing to host a stand at the Sasol Techno X Exhibition. Over 19 000 visitors attended this event in Sasolburg, including 4000 learners from 78 schools. We used the platform to highlight the value of plastics and educate attendees on the importance of recycling plastic waste. 

AquaAmazing performed nine shark dissections during the exhibition to reveal the threat of marine pollution to its creatures. As a result, Plastics SA and AquaAmazing received the award for the most talked-about exhibitor at the event.

Fishing line bin installations

Discarded and disused fishing line can pose a serious threat to marine life. It can cut into the skin of creatures and entangle any moving animal swimming past. This project aimed to raise public awareness of the negative impacts of discarded fishing line on sea creatures, as well as to encourage fishermen to dispose of their fishing line in a responsible manner.

Plastics SA teamed up with the Dyer IslandConservation Trust, the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Southern Africa (WESSA), MacNeil Plastics and the South African Plastics Pipe Makers Association (SAPPMA) to create a nationwide network of fishing line recycling bins. This fishing line bin project has already led to the installation of 386 bins at various beaches and ports around South Africa.

One of the main goals of the project is to install 500 bins across the country’s coastline and as far afield as Mozambique, where South African holidaymakers regularly go on deep-sea fishing excursions. To date, over 350 kilograms of discarded fishing line has been removed and recycled. Over 500 fishing hooks have also been retrieved from the bins.

These four projects are just a few that have been organised or supported by Plastics SA. During the month of September 2019, we will also be getting involved in a number of clean-up projects, including Clean-up and Recycle SA Week (16 to 21 September), National Recycling Day SA (20 September), International Coastal Clean-up Day (21 September) and ‘Let’s Do It’ World Clean-up (21 September). Come join us and help to clean our environment from litter and pollution.

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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.

September is Clean-up and Recycle SA month. Diarise these dates!

September calendar book

September is all about cleaning up our environment and recycling plastic waste in South Africa. In fact, September has been dedicated to clean-up and recycling campaigns by the plastics industry. There are a number of initiatives taking place this month that are centred around pollution eradication, litter clean-ups and recycling drives.

Here are some of the dates that you can mark down in your calendar. All South Africans are welcome to take part in these campaigns and do their bit to help rid our environment of litter and pollution.

  • 16 – 21 September 2019: Clean-up and Recycle SA Week
  • 20 September 2019: National Recycling Day SA
  • 21 September 2019: International Coastal Clean-up Day
  • 21 September 2019: ‘Let’s Do It’ World Clean-up

Note these dates in September 2019

Clean-up and Recycle SA Week is an annual event that is organised by Plastics SA. It is intended to encourage the public (adults and school children) to clean-up the environment by picking up litter on their daily commutes. By cleaning schools, workplaces and the streets of South African towns, we can help to protect the environment from pollution and boost recycling rates at the same time.

While the entire week has been dedicated to waste control, there are two important days at the end of the week. Friday is National Recycling Day SA – a day to raise awareness about the importance of recycling plastic waste instead of throwing it in the general waste bin. Then, Saturday marks International Coastal Clean-up Day – a time to get involved in community beach clean-ups and remove all waste items from marine environments.

For those South Africans that cannot participate in coastal clean-ups, they can make an impact on the Saturday by participating in the ‘Let’s Do It’ World Clean-up. This initiative encourages citizens living inland (not near the coast) to participate in community clean-ups and remove litter from parks, roads, city centres and public spaces.

This month is an opportunity for all South Africans to participate in these initiatives and remove litter from our environment. It also presents an opportunity to bolster our recycling sector and give our waste a second lifecycle. September is a month dedicated to a healthy environment that is free from all forms of waste and pollution, so join the cause and take part in community campaigns in your town.

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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.

Key statistics from latest recycling report

Recycling statistics 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.

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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.

What do the numbers on plastic recyclables mean?

number symbols on plastic products

Have you ever seen the symbols on plastic products that look like a recycling logo with a number inside? These are called the material identification code. They tell plastic manufacturers and recyclers what polymers are present in the plastic product. These symbols do not have anything to do with the number of times the plastic can be recycled, as is commonly believed.

The identification codes were first developed by the American Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), now called the Plastics Industry Trade Association (PITA). The coding system is used around the world by recyclers to separate and sort plastics so that they can be processed according to the main polymer present.

The numbers on the identification symbol range from one to seven. These numbers are contained within three chasing arrows, forming a triangle around the number. The acronym of the polymer is also displayed underneath the triangle. Here is a breakdown of these symbols and what they mean.

1. PET – Polyethylene terephthalate

The symbol with a 1 is used for PET plastic. PET is one of the most common polymers used for food and beverage packaging. It is used to make carbonated drink bottles, water bottles, plastic jars, punnets, trays, strapping tape and more. PET is widely recycled in South Africa and around the world.

2. PE-HD (or HDPE) – High-density polyethylene

The identification code with a 2 is used for PE-HD plastic. This is a hard and strong form of polyethylene that is used to manufacture milk bottles, fruit juice bottles, plastic drums, buckets, crates, bins and shampoo bottles. PE-HD is recycled in South Africa. Its strength and durability make it ideal for products that need to withstand wear and tear.

3. PVC – Polyvinyl chloride

The symbol with a 3 represents PVC – a sturdy and hard plastic polymer. It is used to create irrigation pipes, tamper-proof medicine seals, shrink-wrapping, conduit, toys, plastic gutters and more. PVC is quite difficult to recycle and requires special machinery. Many small-scale recyclers in South Africa cannot process PVC, so plastics manufacturers have started to replace PVC products with PET. 

4. PE-LD (or LDPE) – Low-density polyethylene

The identification code with a 4 is used for PE-LD plastics and products such as grocery bags, packets, cling film, bubble wrap and sandwich bags. PE-LD is a flexible polymer that is widely recycled in South Africa. Previously, this type of plastic could jam the sorting machines at recycling facilities, but this is not often the case anymore.

5. PP – Polypropylene

The symbol with a 5 depicts PP plastic. This is a temperature-resistant polymer that is used to manufacture ice cream containers, kettles, straws, microwave dishes, garden furniture, bottle caps and takeaway cutlery. PP is also commonly recycled in South Africa.

6. PS – Polystyrene

The code with a 6 is used for polystyrene. There are two types of PS – expanded PS and a hardened PS. Expanded PS is the foam-like material used to make packaging fillers and takeaway food containers. The hardened PS is used to manufacture coathangers, bread tags and yoghurt cups. PS is accepted by recycling facilities in South Africa.

7. Other

The symbol with a 7 is used to denote any other type of plastic polymer. The symbol will display a range of acronyms beneath the triangle, such as ABS, E/VAC, POM, PC, PETG, PA and a combination of these acronyms. Plastics with this code are often made from a mixture of polymers which makes them difficult to recycle, or not recyclable at all. 

Consumers widely believe that if a plastic product contains these symbols, then they must be recycled. In South Africa, materials are only recycled if there is a suitable end-market for the recyclate. These identification codes are used by recyclers to sort the plastics into similar batches for processing.

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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 recyclate end-markets in South Africa

Plastic wheel on bin is one of end-markets for recyclate

Plastics recycling is currently one of the best solutions to pollution. However, for recycling to remain a successful and viable industry, there needs to be end-markets with continuous demand. Plastic recyclate is a valuable material that many plastics manufacturers are using to create products.

Plastic recycling has become a focus for many retailers and consumers. This has helped to increase the supply of plastic waste for recyclers. In turn, more recyclate is produced every year – South Africa processed over 352 000 tonnes of plastic recyclate in 2018 alone, surpassing the 350 000 tonne mark for the first time ever.

Suitable end-markets are vital for the sustainability of the plastics recycling sector. They ensure that the plastic recyclate has a purpose and can be sold for the benefit of the South African economy. The country currently exports 5.6% of its plastic recyclate to neighbouring countries and Asia. The rest is used in local end-markets, in conjunction with virgin plastics, if it is of good quality and up to national standards.

Domestic end-markets for plastic recyclate

The majority of plastic recyclate in South Africa is used to manufacture flexible packaging. Just under 20% is used to make recyclable shopping bags, bin liners and packaging film. Grocery bags from major supermarkets are being manufactured with a high content of recycled material which has helped to increase the demand for plastic recyclate in South Africa.

The next biggest end-market for plastic recyclate is clothing and footwear; 14% of recycled plastic is sold into this sector. Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) fibres make up the bulk of this recyclate for the clothing industry. The rest comes from flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that is used to manufacture gumboots and shoe soles.

The agricultural sector consumes 13% of South Africa’s plastic recyclate. This material is used to produce irrigation pipes, feeding troughs, grain covers, fencing poles and numerous other useful products. The building and construction industry buys 11% of plastic recyclate. These materials are used to manufacture plumbing pipes, plastic fittings, conduit and plasticised floor tiles. Recycled beverage bottles are used for geotextiles and roof insulation.

End-markets that consume less than 10% of recyclate

Rigid packaging consumes 9% of plastic recyclate in South Africa. These products include plastic crates, buckets, pallets, boxes and beverage bottles made from recyclate. A large volume of rPET is also used to manufacture sheeting for thermoformed punnets and trays. rPET is the only recycled material that can, with specialised recycling equipment, be used in food-contact applications.

Recycled polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS) plastics are used to create décor and furniture; accounting for just under 8% of recyclate in South Africa. Recycled PP is used to manufacture products such as chairs, furniture feet, end-caps and plastic furniture components. Recycled PS is used to make picture frames, skirting and bumper rails. A mixture of these recycled plastics can be used to produce wood composite planks for flooring and outdoor furniture and decking. 

The smaller end-market sectors for plastic recyclate include houseware (6%), mining and engineering (4%) and electronic cables and components (3%). South Africa also exports just under 6% of its recyclate to members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and select Asian countries such as China and India.

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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 recycling: South Africa versus Europe

South Africa and Europe outlines on recycling plastic bottles

South Africa’s latest recycling statistics have been released and the country is doing well. We have some of the highest plastic recycling rates in the world. The industry provides income opportunities for just under 60 000 South Africans, many of which are informal collectors and recyclers.

How does the local recycling sector fare against other countries? South Africa’s mechanical plastic recycling statistics show that we are better off than Europe. In 2018, South Africa achieved a 46.3% input plastics recycling rate by converting 352 000 tonnes of plastic refuse into raw materials. In the same year, Europe managed a 31.1% plastics recycling rate. South Africa recycles 15.2% more of its post-consumer plastic waste than Europe.

This trend has been visible over the past decade. In 2017, the domestic plastic consumption in Europe was 51.2 million tonnes. Of this volume, 27.1 million tonnes were post-consumer plastic waste that was collected for recycling. This represented an 11% increase over the past 10 years. Over the same period of time, South Africa has grown its recycling tonnages by 64%.

Since 2015, South Africa started to report on input figures to align with international reporting methods. This has allowed Plastics SA to more accurately compare the statistics of South African recycling to those of the rest of the world. The statistics above are all for input recycling rates.

Different views on recycling

South Africa and Europe have differing views and philosophies when it comes to recycling. The South African recycling industry is based on economic principles, whereas in Europe, recycling is based on environmental principles. We recycle because it is a valuable industry that creates jobs and supports tens of thousands of families. Europeans recycle because it is good for the environment.

In South Africa, recycling needs to be a profitable venture for it to be viable; in Europe, it is the right thing to do for the planet. Only 64% of households in South Africa have access to formal waste management services. There are no landfill restrictions on recyclable waste. Europe regulates and restricts certain recyclables from entering landfills.

Despite these differences, South Africa still manages to recycle a larger proportion of its plastic waste than Europe does. Besides PET recyclers, South African facilities manually sort the waste by hand. European facilities use infrared spectrometers to sort their recyclables from non-recyclable waste. This means that South Africa can recycle certain products that Europe cannot, such as black plastics and thin packaging films.

South Africa’s plastics recycling rates have shown rapid and continuous improvement over the past decade. We have become a world-leader in mechanical plastics recycling. As the volumes of waste grow every year, so too will the volume of recyclable refuse. This means that the plastics recycling industry will go from strength to strength.

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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.

The future of plastic waste management in South Africa

Green plastic waste management bin

South Africa has a strong and resilient plastics recycling industry. Issues of waste collection and plastic recycling rates are hot topics at the moment – evoking emotional responses from various sectors of society. The fact is that a normal life would not be possible without plastics but the responsible and ethical disposal of these products is an issue in most countries around the world.

The future of plastic waste management lies in environmental protection, citizen education and participation from all sectors of society. Plastics are far too valuable to simply throw away. They need to be reused, recycled and fed back into a circular economy. This will ensure that the value of plastics is retained and sustainable economic growth can be unlocked.

“Recyclables are a valuable resource and should be removed from the solid waste stream before reaching landfill,” says Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom. “All stakeholders, including producers, manufacturers, brand owners, consumers, waste management companies and recyclers – have to work together to make plastics the material of choice, to manufacture locally, process it efficiently and to manage the end-of-life products in the most efficient manner that will benefit the consumer, the industry and the planet,” he explains.

The following steps will pave the way for the future of plastic waste management in South Africa:

1. Develop waste management infrastructure

Plastics need to be collected and removed from the environment. The existing waste collection infrastructure needs to be improved in order to boost recycling collection, sorting and processing. Plastics need to be separated from non-recyclables at the source – in the homes of citizens, at restaurants, stores, hotels and businesses. Almost 34% of South Africans do not have access to any waste management services, so they need to be better equipped to deal with their waste.

2. Reduce contaminants in the recyclable waste stream

Just separating plastics from non-recyclable waste is not good enough. Often, these plastics are contaminated with food scraps and beverage remnants. This can affect the quality of a batch of recycling. A collaborative effort is required to minimise the contaminants in the incoming waste stream. Citizens can rinse their plastic waste with water – even non-potable greywater will do. Restaurant owners, baristas and retailers can start to improve the cleanliness of their recyclable waste too by rinsing the plastics.

3. Help recyclers sustain their operations

South Africa has around 300 recycling businesses. No matter their size, it is an ongoing struggle for recyclers to keep their businesses profitable with the rising costs of electricity, transport and labour. Many new entrants in the recycling industry are also not legally-compliant, which puts an unnecessary burden on the rest of recyclers. South Africans can support their local recyclers by dropping off their recyclable waste at these facilities instead of leaving it up to their waste management providers – many of which send the waste straight to landfill.

4. Develop alternatives for hard-to-recycle plastics

There are certain types of plastic that are difficult to recycle or are not economically viable to process. Alternative solutions need to be developed by manufacturers and recyclers for these plastics, such as turning them into cement aggregate for building blocks. Alternative methods of plastics waste disposal may also lie in chemical recycling and using waste to create electricity. Manufacturers can also work on making these types of plastic easier to process and more cost-effective to recycle.

The future of effective plastic waste management lies in collaboration between citizens, legislators, waste management companies, the government and plastics manufacturers. While Plastics SA works towards long-term solutions to plastic pollution, infrastructure needs to be improved, educational awareness needs to be implemented and responsible waste disposal needs to be enforced. 

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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.

Citizens can help to improve recycling rates

Citizens collecting litter from beach

South Africa boasts some impressive recycling statistics. The country currently recycles more plastic than Europe. In 2018 alone, South Africa converted 352 000 tonnes of plastic waste into valuable raw material – about 67% of all plastic refuse. However, despite being a world-leader in mechanical plastic recycling, there is always room for improvement.

The plastics industry and waste management providers are working hard to ensure that all plastic waste is recycled. Consumers and South African citizens can help us reach our goal of a 70% plastics recycling rate in the next few years. By implementing recycling in the home, citizens can ensure that plastic waste is sent to the recycling facility instead of the landfill.

Recycling in the home will boost recycling rates

By implementing separation at source strategies in the home, more plastic waste will be sent to recycling facilities. Citizens should start to separate their plastic waste from non-recyclables and organic refuse at home. All waste placed in general garbage bins will be sent to a landfill. While some of the recyclable waste is collected and sorted at landfills, a lot of it remains in these facilities.

In addition, consumers should aim to rinse their plastic waste before placing it in the recycling bin. The water used for washing dishes can be used for this – not clean water – as water is also a scarce resource that we should be using sparingly. This will wash away any food and drink remnants that could contaminate the recycling batch. “Basic actions like rinsing, or, in water-scarce areas wiping out a food container before placing it in a bag, reduces contamination,” says Mpact general manager Nicholas Schild.

Cleaner plastics entering the recycling stream will result in a higher-quality recyclate at the end of the process. This means that products made from recycled plastic will be more durable, better quality and more cost-effective to process. “Consumer choice can add to the momentum of recycling and environment-conscious manufacturing practices,” says Schild. 

South African government calls for citizens to help

The South African government has already implemented two mechanisms in order to encourage citizens to reduce litter – the Plastic Bag Regulations and a plastic bag levy. However, these attempts have not curbed the prevalence of illegal dumping and littering.

“There are a whole range of areas where we need to see a behaviour change from our citizens. Single-use plastics are just one example,” says Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy. “The department is currently assessing single-use plastic products—plastic carrier bags, straws, earbuds, crockery and cutlery – and we will be conducting various stakeholder engagements in this regard,” she adds.

“With the proper coordination and consumer action, voluntary change can be a sustainable and cost-effective solution,” says Creecy. The South African plastics industry is looking at innovative ways to encourage citizens to recycle. Plastics are valuable products that make modern life easier and more affordable. Recycling plastics is currently a better solution than banning them, so we urge all South Africans to dispose of their plastic waste in a responsible manner.

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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.

Plastics are the future, but not plastic waste

Plastics chess piece and clock

Plastics are invaluable products that make our lives easier. A world without plastics would be hard to imagine – we use them every single day of our lives. The TOMRA Leads conference, which recently took place in Bulgaria, was attended by plastics industry stakeholders from around the world. 

The event investigated all aspects of the plastics value chain, including the advantages and disadvantages of sustainability initiatives and waste collection systems as well as the need for a shift towards a circular economy for plastics. Plastics manufacturers are already searching for long-term solutions to plastic waste, but every citizen and government department also needs to play a role by disposing of plastic waste properly and ensuring that adequate waste collection systems are in place.

South Africa has some of the highest mechanical plastic recycling rates in the world, compared to Europe and many other developed countries. South Africa has an input plastic recycling rate of 46.3% – we recycle around 352 000 tonnes of plastic into new products every year. 

The future of plastics starts with decisions today

Dr Volker Rehrmann, head of business at Area Sorting Solutions and guest speaker at the TOMRA Leads Conference, shares his solutions to the global problem of plastic waste. “First of all we need to collect more plastics and bring it into the recycling stream,” he says. 

“A big problem is leakage, and really most of that comes from South East Asia and Africa. We need to focus on those areas where there is no proper collection system. We can achieve a lot there,” he explains. Only 64% of South African households have access to municipal waste collection services.

“Take this message with you; it is not a problem to recover plastics from waste that is going to landfill. It can be done,” he says. The future of plastics lies in creating a circular economy.  Recycled plastic waste needs to be seen as a raw material that can be resold to the market to be used in the manufacture of new products.

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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.

The state of South African recycling companies

Lego man representing recycling companies

South Africa has a very strong recycling industry. We are a world-leader when it comes to mechanical plastic recycling. Almost 520 000 tonnes of plastic waste was recycled in 2018 alone – that doesn’t include other recyclables such as metals, glass and paper. These high volumes of plastic recycling enable 58 470 South Africans to earn an income.

There is a minimum of 300 recycling companies in South Africa, varying from small enterprises to large-scale facilities. One-fifth of these recyclers converted 70% of the total plastic waste in 2018. The top 30 recyclers in South Africa currently process 54% of the country’s plastic waste.

Just over one-quarter of all recyclers have been around for three years or less and one quarter have been around for 20 years or more. The three most experienced recycling companies in South Africa have a total of 135 years between them.

How the South African provinces compare for recycling

Of these top 30 recycling facilities, 17 are located in Gauteng, six in the Western Cape, five in KwaZulu-Natal and one each in the Eastern Cape and Northwest. Gauteng has half of all recycling companies in South Africa. They handle 58% of the country’s recyclate. It is the province with the largest number of new entrants to the recycling industry and the greatest number of small-scale subsistence recycling operations.

Many of these small-scale recyclers around the country are dependent on clean, pre-consumer recyclables. These are plastic waste items that have not been used or purchased yet; offcuts from manufacturing processes and factory rejects. Even established recyclers have started to reduce their intake of contaminated post-consumer waste in order to reduce their operational costs.

New recycling companies emerging

An interesting trend emerged in 2018 – the four leading provinces (Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Northwest) recycled more tonnages in 2018 than in previous years, but the rest of the provinces actually recycled less. However, the tonnes per recycler has decreased across all provinces – 4.3% less, on average. This is due to new entrants and a growing business sector in the recycling industry.

There are new opportunities for recyclers in all provinces. Waste volumes are increasing, yet Gauteng currently handles much of the refuse from other provinces. The main challenge for new entrants in other provinces is to establish their own collection networks. Recyclers depend on collectors and waste management companies for their incoming recyclables. New entrants in the smaller provinces will need to establish these networks as there are currently no substantial collection systems.

This means working closely with local communities and municipalities in order to ensure that there is a mutual benefit for all parties involved. This takes time and capital investment, which new entrants may not have. Localised recycling solutions will benefit the government and the taxpayer. It is important to set up small-scale recycling ventures in more remote regions of 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.

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