Plastic packaging type 1 – PET

Plastic packaging is a valuable part of any product, whether it is food, electronics, household goods or medicine. The packaging keeps the product safe and fresh, ensuring that it remains in perfect condition until opened. The manner in which society disposes of these materials is important; plastic packaging should be recycled wherever possible.

To understand more about plastic packaging, we will shed some light on the different types of plastic, 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 world by recyclers. 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 first polymer used for plastic packaging is polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

What is PET?

PET is one of the most common polymers used for plastic packaging. It is mainly known for its use in the food and beverage industry. PET is used to make carbonated drink bottles, water bottles, plastic jars, vegetable punnets, food trays and strapping tape. It is also used in the textile industry (known as polyester). PET is a strong and durable plastic that can be flexible if stretched thinly.

PET is widely recycled in South Africa – it has some of the highest recycling rates of any polymer, due to the sheer volume of products and packaging made from PET and its ease of processing. Over 74 300 tonnes of PET were recycled in South Africa during the last financial year and these rates have been steadily increasing for the past five years.

Benefits of PET packaging

PET has numerous important characteristics that make it a valuable plastic. It is a naturally colourless and non-toxic, which means that it is ideal for use in the packaging industry as it allows consumers to see the product contained within and it does not contaminate products. It can also be easily dyed, as some beverage manufacturers do with their green or brown bottles to resemble glass bottles.

PET is impermeable to liquids, which means that it is perfect for storing drinks under pressure. It also has a high strength to weight ratio, making it ideal as a protective packaging material. It will not shatter like glass jars and bottles, so PET is the most common replacement for these fragile packaging materials.

Due to its lightweight nature, PET is highly economical. Less polymer is needed to create the packaging as it is strong. This results in cheaper transport costs and less energy needed for the manufacturing of PET plastic. It is a widely recycled polymer because it can retain most of its strength and flexibility characteristics after being processed. This makes recycled PET (rPET) a readily-available and inexpensive material. These characteristics and benefits make PET one of the most common plastic packaging materials in the world.

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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 FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Plastic packaging alternatives may be worse for the marine environment

A committee of United Kingdom members of parliament (MPs) has warned that plastic packaging alternatives could be doing more harm to the marine environment than plastics. Compostable and biodegradable plastics could be adding to global marine pollution because they do not always break down as intended.

The use of these plastic alternatives is growing rapidly around the world, but there is a worldwide shortage of infrastructure to correctly process these waste items. Experts also argue that the lack of consumer understanding about compostable and biodegradable plastics actually increases the likelihood of littering and illegal dumping.

Most compostable packaging waste needs to be sent to an industrial composting facility in order to properly decompose. Being left out in the environment will not work. The same goes for biodegradable plastics – they need to be sent to a certified facility in order to break down as intended. The MPs state that there are not enough of these facilities around the world.

Environmental NGOs weigh-in

These concerns held by British lawmakers are also shared by environmental non-government organisations (NGOs) in many regions across the globe. They agree that the rapid introduction of so-called biodegradable plastic alternatives may have actually increased marine pollution. “If a biodegradable cup gets into the sea, it could pose just as much of a problem to marine life as a conventional plastic cup,” says Environmental Investigation Agency ocean campaigner Juliet Phillips.

Environmental think tank, Green Alliance, also says that there is evidence to prove that the term ‘biodegradable’ makes consumers think that it’s alright to discard these materials into the environment. This inadvertently encourages pollution on land and at sea. These materials also do not decompose the same way in the environment as they did under controlled circumstances in a laboratory during development.

Governments concerned about plastic alternatives

“In the backlash against plastic, other materials are being increasingly used as substitutes in food and drink packaging. We are concerned that such actions are being taken without proper consideration of wider environmental consequences, such as higher carbon emissions. Compostable plastics have been introduced without the right infrastructure or consumer understanding to manage compostable waste,” says United Kingdom chair of the Commons select committee Neil Parish.

“The drive to introduce bioplastics, biodegradable plastics and compostable plastics is being done with limited emphasis on explaining the purpose of these materials to the public or consideration of whether they are in fact better from an environmental perspective than the plastic packaging they replace,” explains UK-based independent environmental charity, Keep Britain Tidy.

South Africa in the same boat

Although these opinions are being voiced by UK-based experts, they hold true for biodegradable and plastic alternatives around the world. South Africa is also seeing a rapid increase in the use of compostable and biodegradable plastics. Many supermarkets, coffee shops and restaurants are already providing South Africans with biodegradable and compostable alternatives.

These materials are also not always suitable for recycling. South Africa has a thriving recycling industry and many of the plastic materials produced in the country end up being recycled into new products over and over again. In a country like ours, it sometimes makes more sense to recycle traditional plastic packaging and products than to push for so-called biodegradable and compost alternatives.

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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 FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Why medical plastic packaging is so important

Doctors, nurses, hospital patients and lab technicians can be exposed to deadly viruses and bacteria on a daily basis. One of the ways to protect them from harm is through medical plastic packaging. Plastic is an ideal material to seal off sterile equipment and prevent contamination.

Plastics have a vital role to play in the healthcare industry; not only are they used to manufacture medical equipment, but they are also used to protect and seal needles and other apparatus to prevent the spread of diseases and bacteria. All of the single-use medical supplies found in hospitals and clinics are packaged in plastic or paper.

Plastic packaging also allows these medical items to be transported safely and easily. Examples of medical plastic packaging include diagnostic device packaging, blister packs, intravenous (IV) bags and tubing, prescription bottles, serum vials and medicine dispensers. Most of these products and packaging materials are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as it is a strong and durable plastic.

Medical plastic packaging undergoes rigorous testing

Before any medical plastic packaging can be sold, it must first undergo numerous tests to ensure safety and suitability for its intended use. These tests usually include physicochemical tests, biological reactivity tests and tests for extractables. They aim to determine whether the plastics are safe for use on patients with weakened immune systems.

Some of these plastics will also undergo biocompatibility tests to check whether they are possible irritants or could lead to cytotoxicity. All medical equipment needs to be sterile and non-reactive for humans, including the plastic packaging. This ensures that the packaging is compliant with all international health standards and guidelines before being used in the real world.

Is medical plastic packaging recycled?

Most medical equipment is incinerated once it has served its purpose. By burning this waste at extremely high temperatures, it ensures that no bacteria or viruses survive and spread. However, some of the plastic packaging used to protect unused medical equipment can still be recycled – only if these plastics are sterile and have not been exposed to bacteria, blood or tissue.

There are strict guidelines for recycling medical plastic packaging. Each hospital can outline its own recycling strategy but they also need to ensure that the plastic waste is not contaminated in any way. If the plastic has been exposed to sick patients or any form of bacteria, it will need to be incinerated with the rest of the hospital waste.

Medical plastics and the packaging materials used to protect this equipment have a vital role to play in the healthcare sector. Plastics are non-reactive and sterile materials; they protect medical apparatus during transport and prevent equipment from becoming contaminated. These plastics are vital for the daily functioning of hospitals and have saved countless lives.

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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 FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

The benefits of plastic packaging

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.

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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 FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Recycling plastic presents income opportunities for South Africans

One of the best motivating forces for recycling plastic waste comes from the income opportunities that it creates. This is why South Africa has such a large sector of informal waste pickers – citizens that collect plastic recyclables from landfills and other waste streams and sell them to recycling companies for a profit.

Waste management is an important part of society. Recycling waste not only prolongs the lifespan of plastics, but it also unlocks the value of refuse and boosts the economy. As such, a number of municipalities in South Africa are partnering with various organisations to improve waste management in these communities.

Municipal recycling programmes

One such example is Bushbuckridge Municipality in Mpumalanga, which recently partnered with the University of South Africa (UNISA) to launch a recycling programme that will empower local residents. The programme is aimed at improving residents’ knowledge about recycling, formalising income-generating opportunities from recycling plastic waste and minimising environmental pollution caused by litter.

The goal of the partnership was to develop a manageable and affordable solution for recycling in Mpumalanga. “It’s a municipality’s responsibility to address waste management issues within a society,” says Bushbuckridge Municipality waste management manager Levy Mokoena.

“Unfortunately, as a rural municipality, we generate limited revenue – which limits our waste management efforts when it comes to reaching certain parts of our jurisdiction,” he explains. “Our mission, in partnership with UNISA, is to support existing recyclers by making them realise the potential of a clean, healthy environment and opportunities to earn an income,” says Mokoena.

Government support will also help to maximise the income-generating opportunities that exist within the recycling sector. “Many recyclers have given up on their efforts because of the small amounts of money they received, unaware of the great financial potential that recycling offers,” says UNISA associate professor in environmental issues Fani Machete.

Businesses can play a role in local recycling initiatives

Businesses operating in South Africa can also support a formalised recycling industry. Polyco, a local organisation that focuses on Polyolefin plastics recycling and recovery, has been running a campaign called ‘Packa-Ching’. A recycling truck and trailer parks in designated communities on a weekly basis, where residents can sell their recyclable waste.

Community members can sell their plastic, paper, glass and metal waste to the truck driver. The waste is weighed and the prices for the materials are set according to current market values. Residents are paid into their eWallets without delay. These recyclable materials are loaded into the trailer and taken to local recycling facilities. Packa-Ching is aimed at making recycling more convenient and adding monetary rewards for separating recyclable waste in households.

Another business-led initiative has been started by a multinational brewing and alcoholic beverage company, Distell. The company launched a local recycling project called ‘GreenUp’. Distell partnered with an organisation called Separation at Source (S@S) to launch the project in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

GreenUp aims to establish formalised and effective value chains when it comes to the collection, separation and processing of plastic recyclables in Khayelitsha – home to around 450 000 residents. GreenUp will implement collection points and formal agreements between waste pickers and the buyers of recyclable waste in the area.

This will help to promote the sustainability of the local recycling sector, a well as to boost the employment opportunities in Khayelitsha. “By partnering with S@S in formalising networks or value chains in Khayelitsha’s waste management efforts, we also aid in combating socio-economic challenges, empowering individuals within this fast-growing community,” says Distell sustainability manager Eric Leong Son.

Recycling is a big industry in South Africa yet the jobs remain largely informal. Officially, the industry supports 7890 formal jobs but it is estimated that around 58 470 South Africans receive an income through the entire recycling supply chain. These income-generating opportunities are significant and they can be boosted with the help of the government and business sector.

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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 FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Call for nominations for 2019 Caroline Reid Award

Plastics SA is in search of nominations for the 2019 Caroline Reid Award. This award is given to the ‘Clean-up Champion of the Year’ – the South African who has shown outstanding commitment to community clean-ups and recycling initiatives. The individual may have worked to clean litter and pollution in the marine, coastal or inland environments.

The nominees serve as role models for caring people who are concerned about pollution in the natural environment. The 2019 Caroline Reid Award will be presented to the clean-up champion on 23 January 2020 at the National Conference of Marine and Coastal Educators Network in Cape Town. The winner will also receive a R10 000 cash prize, a floating trophy and exposure in local and international media as environmental role models.

Who was Caroline Reid?

“Caroline Reid was an ocean conservation warrior who sadly passed away in 2018 after a tragic accident. The entire South African conservation community lost a dynamic champion who coordinated hundreds of beach and diving clean-ups and who was central in the work done with the loss of the plastic pellets in the Durban harbour in 2017,” explains Plastics SA sustainability director Douw Steyn.

“She helped to increase the awareness of plastic pollution on the KwaZulu-Natal coastline,” adds Steyn. Reid was a national champion when it came to combating pollution in the marine environment. This annual award has been established to honour Reid and her continuous efforts to protect the oceans and beaches. It will also honour those individuals who give up their time to make the environment a cleaner, healthier and safer space.

Rules for the 2019 Caroline Reid Award

The entry and nomination form can be downloaded via Cleanupandrecycle.co.za. All nominations must be submitted by Friday, 1 November 2019. No late submissions will be considered. To meet all the requirements, the checklist and motivation on the submission form must be completed and returned.

Nominees and the winner may be asked to participate in public awareness initiatives linked to the 2019 Caroline Reid Award. All nominees and applicants for the award will be asked to submit a short profile on themselves. Shortlisted nominees will then be required to submit three high-resolution photographs of themselves, to be used in publicity campaigns.

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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 FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.

Why participating in community clean-ups is important

September was Clean-up and Recycle Month in South Africa. A number of beach clean-ups and community recycling events took place over the past few weeks. Citizens should still get involved in these events whenever they occur because the benefits to the environment can be substantial.

By collecting and recycling litter from our beaches, parks, rivers and cities, South Africans can help to boost the economy and protect the environment at the same time. Waste pollution is one of the biggest threats facing our oceans, rivers and public spaces. The South African government has legislated a number of environmental protection laws and waste management regulations in order to minimise the amount of litter that ends up in these natural spaces.

South Africans have started to become acutely aware of the impact of waste and pollution on the environment. Community clean-ups are becoming more popular and well-attended, which is great news. Tackling litter and recycling waste are two simple solutions that every citizen can use in the fight against pollution. Every person can take the decision to reduce their waste output, recycle in the home and refrain from littering.

Manpower is important when it comes to clean-ups

While reducing waste and recycling more are two solutions to prevent pollution, there is still a need to take part in community clean-ups to remove litter from the environment. The more people that participate in these events, the better the results. More eyes and hands to find and remove litter means that far more waste is collected from rivers, parks and beaches.

There are technological aids that can help to trap and remove waste, such as litter booms in rivers and floating waste-skimming devices in the ocean. However, manpower remains one of the most vital tools when it comes to effective litter collection and pollution eradication. Technology can help, but it cannot be the final solution. Every citizen can play a role in environmental protection as well.

Simple acts such as recycling plastic, paper and glass waste can have a big impact on the environment. Picking up litter on the daily commute to and from work can really make a difference to public spaces. Small decisions can have big results and they all start with the individual.

Local acts for national benefit

Community clean-ups take place in every major city and many small towns in South Africa. Beach clean-ups are popular events in Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Cities such as Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bloemfontein have their own community clean-ups too. These events bring communities together for a single cause – environmental protection. The consequences of which can be far-reaching.

These localised events can have big payoffs in terms of national environmental benefits. They not only encourage community interaction and participation, but they also enable business networking and a sense of charity. Community engagement can lift the spirits of individuals who take part.

Community clean-ups can show South Africans that we can work together towards a common goal. They may also inspire further changes from key decision-makers. Shop owners may start recycling initiatives of their own, retailers may invest in recycling vending machines and restaurateurs may implement food collection drives.

These gatherings can also effect changes within local governments and municipalities. Community clean-ups can inspire mayors to install more recycling bins and draft harsher laws for illegal dumping. These local acts can inspire national change. It is ultimately the responsibility of every South African to do their best and dispose of their 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 FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.