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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.

Surprising facts about plastics and the environment

It’s undeniable that plastics play a huge part in our daily lives, from the nylon seatbelts we wear in cars to the plastic bags that keep our food fresh. Plastics keep us safe, healthy and benefit our lives in too many ways to count. But did you know that they can also benefit the environment? 

Plastics get a lot of criticism when it comes to litter and pollution, but they can actually help to save the planet – especially when used and disposed of properly and responsibly. They can play a large role in sustainability and helping us to lower our environmental impact. Here are some surprising facts about plastics and the environment.

1. Plastic packaging reduces all types of waste

Plastics are widely used as a packaging material. They are strong, lightweight and durable. They protect our products from damage and our food from spoiling too quickly. In this regard, plastic packaging actually reduces waste by protecting our goods and foods. They allow us to use our products and eat our food; without packaging, these items would simply be discarded before they could be sold.

Numerous life cycle studies have found that plastic packaging actually delivers more food with significantly less waste. They also use less energy and have a lower global warming potential than most of the plastic alternatives currently available. By extending the shelf life of products and foods, plastic packaging can prevent a lot more waste.

2. Plastics lower our environmental impact

Plastics can actually help humans to minimise their environmental impact by reducing waste, energy use and carbon emissions. A recent study found that the environmental cost of using plastics in consumer products is nearly four times less than the cost of using other materials. The study suggests that replacing plastics with alternative materials will be more expensive because plastics allow us to do more with less material.

3. Plastics help to improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions

Some cars on the road today are made up of about 50% plastic components by volume, from interior panels and dashboards to bumpers and engine housings. Plastic is a lightweight material and as we know, lighter cars use less fuel. Plastics help us to minimise our fuel consumption which, in turn, reduces carbon emissions.

A 10% reduction in vehicle weight can improve fuel efficiency by up to 8% over the lifespan of the car. Certain plastic components, such as underbody shields, help to improve the aerodynamics of our cars. This further improves fuel efficiency and lowers greenhouse gas emissions from modern vehicles. 

4. Plastics in the construction sector help to save energy

Plastic building and insulation products help us to save energy by keeping our homes at a comfortable temperature. This minimises the need for air conditioning or heating, both of which consume large amounts of electricity. These building products, such as polystyrene pipe insulation and plastic-based sealants, allow homeowners to reduce their overall energy consumption – saving money and the environment at the same time.

5. Plastic recycling is saving the environment and creating a sustainable economy

South Africa has one of the best recycling industries in the world – last year we recycled 15% more plastic waste than Europe. Recycling infrastructure and initiatives are growing year-on-year, allowing us to reuse more plastic materials than ever and keep them in circulation. 

This benefits the environment as it keeps plastic waste out of landfills. These materials can sometimes be washed into rivers during rainstorms or blown away in the wind. By recycling plastics, we are keeping existing materials in circulation and out of nature. The entire recycling industry also supports around 60 000 South Africans and generated just under R2.3-billion for the national economy last year alone.

These facts all show how plastics can be used to benefit the environment. If used properly and responsibly, plastic products and packaging can lower our environmental impact by reducing waste, carbon emissions and energy usage. They allow us to do more with less material. Plastics should always be disposed of in a recycling bin, never dumped or littered.

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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.

Are bioplastics the next big thing for packaging?

Bioplastics, not to be confused with biodegradable plastics, are a relatively new field within the South African plastics industry. There are many types of bioplastic that can fulfill different applications and uses. It is important to remember that the term “bioplastics” does not necessarily mean biodegradable or compostable. 

 

Bio-based plastics are not always biodegradable and biodegradable plastics are not always bio-based – although in many cases, they are. Bioplastics simply mean that the main source of raw material is natural and plant-based. They are not made from fossil fuels and oil, which means that bioplastics have the potential to be carbon-neutral materials.

 

Can bioplastics solve the problem of litter?

 

While the use of bioplastics won’t actually solve the problem of littering, they are better for the environment should they be discarded irresponsibly. Every single human has a responsibility to avoid littering and illegally dumping their waste. Instead, waste should always be placed in a refuse bin or in a recycling bin.

 

Many bioplastic products are biodegradable. If these items are dumped in the environment and if oxygen is present, they can be decomposed with microorganisms without producing harmful byproducts during the decomposition process. If no oxygen is present, then the microorganisms will produce methane gas.

 

The process of biodegradation often requires certain environmental conditions to be present; the right temperature, presence of oxygen and microorganisms, enough humidity, etc. Bioplastics and biodegradability should never be an excuse to litter.

 

It is important that people remain conscious of the impact of their waste on the environment. No matter what type of waste material – whether it is paper, glass, metal or plastic – responsible waste disposal is the first step in removing litter and pollution from the environment.

 

Can bioplastics be recycled?

 

Recycling in South Africa and around the world requires different plastic polymers to be separated from one another. Bioplastics will also have to be separated from the waste stream and recycled with their conventional counterparts. For example, bio-based PET bottles can be recycled with oil-based PET plastic.

 

The only snag comes with biodegradable and compostable plastics. There is currently no separate recycling stream for post-consumer biodegradable or compostable plastics in South Africa. Only the bio-based conventional materials such as bio-PET and bio-PE-HD can be processed currently. There is still much research and development that needs to be done before bioplastics become a popular packaging material.

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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 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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn 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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Keeping our environment clean is a collective responsibility

As the global population increases rapidly, societies around the world need to come up with more efficient solutions to controlling waste. Excess litter and refuse pose a serious threat to the environment. Illegal dumping and littering are two of the major contributors to pollution in our rivers, oceans, public spaces and countryside. Keeping our environment clean is a collective responsibility that we all share.

Every citizen has a role to play in protecting the environment from pollution. We need to eradicate litter and avoid irresponsible waste disposal practices immediately. There is no excuse for plastic waste in the environment – it should always be recycled and thrown away in a responsible manner. Make a point of finding out more about what can and can’t be recycled, and start separating at home. Plastic is a valuable resource that is too important to simply dump and never use again.

We need to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste wherever possible. This will keep litter out of the environment. The South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is concerned about the amount of pollution in our rivers, dams and oceans. Every South African needs to take responsibility for their waste and disposal habits.

Pollution threatens our food security

The rivers, oceans and groundwater in South Africa are not the only environmental features that are threatened by excess waste and pollution. Our farmland and soils are also at risk. Researchers believe that 61% of South Africa’s arable land has been degraded due to pollution. Food security is already a concern for South Africa as the agricultural sector works hard to keep up with the ever-increasing food demands of our growing population.

Clean farmlands and healthy soils are vital for a thriving society. The beauty of nature is that it can self-heal if it is kept free from pollution and contaminants. Our soils will slowly regenerate nutrients if we avoid illegal dumping of chemical waste and littering of household refuse. South Africa’s wetlands are an example of a natural filter that can provide a sustainable source of clean groundwater, yet these are often used as illegal dumping grounds for a variety of waste materials.

What does environmental rehabilitation cost?

Keeping our environment clean and healthy is inexpensive, but rehabilitating pollution affected areas will cost the taxpayer millions. The Water Research Commission (WRC) has been investigating the cost of environmental rehabilitation. Their research shows that cleaning and restoring a 125-hectare (1.25 square kilometre) wetland costs around R1.7-million.

A wetland of this area can purify enough water to save the country R130-million in purification costs. This can benefit society and businesses, such as mines, that require pure water for their survival. The savings far outweigh the costs of rehabilitation, but we should not let our natural spaces be contaminated in the first place.

Waste eradication is a collective responsibility that needs to be prioritised. Government, businesses and citizens can work together to keep our environment free from litter and pollution. These are some of the leading threats to the South African environment at the moment. A healthy environment will benefit society in infinite ways, so we all need to play our part in responsible waste disposal. Find out more about how you can make a difference by visiting Cleanupandrecycle.co.za 

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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 SA aims for zero pellet waste

Plastics SA is working with plastic manufacturers to ensure that there is zero pellet, flake and powder loss. The industry will drastically reduce the chances of these small plastic particles ending up in the environment by minimising the loss of pellets and flakes in plastic factories. Reducing the volume of plastic in the environment is a core mission of Plastics SA and the industry.

Plastics SA has signed a global declaration of commitment to protect the marine ecosystem from the effects of plastic pollution. In addition, the organisation has joined an alliance of industry stakeholders that have one common goal; to prevent and eradicate plastic waste in our oceans, rivers, land and public spaces.

Spilled plastic pellets can be washed away in the rain and end up in sewers, rivers and the ocean if they are not contained on-site. They need to be swept up and contained to prevent them from blowing away in the wind or being washed into the environment.

Every employee will play a role

This drive for zero plastic pellet loss has been called ‘Operation Clean Sweep’. “When we re-launched Operation Clean Sweep in South Africa as one of our product stewardship programmes last year, our call went out to every segment of the plastics industry – to implement good housekeeping practices,” explains Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.

“We need the commitment from everyone to help protect the environment and save valuable resources,” he says. This includes every single employee in the plastics industry; if true zero pellet waste is to become a reality, then plastics manufacturers will need help from every member of the workforce.

Employee education is an important part of Operation Clean Sweep. Workers are being trained and taught how to handle and dispose of spilled plastic pellets correctly. Simply placing them in a bin and sending them to landfill is not a viable solution. The pellets need to be cleaned and reused or sent to a recycling facility if they are badly damaged.

Plastic pellet waste is detrimental to business

Plastic pellet waste is bad for manufacturers, besides the negative consequences of escaped pellet loss on the environment. “Eliminating pellet, flake and powder loss is not only beneficial for the environment, but also for business performance,” says Hanekom. Pellets can pose a threat to employee safety.

If an employee slips on any small plastic beads on a factory floor, it can result in injury, absenteeism and extensive medical costs. Plastic manufacturers can face legal action and medical compensation if an employee slips on loose plastic pellets, which is why they need to be cleaned up and contained at all times.

Wasted plastic pellets also have economic disadvantages for the industry. “By ensuring that raw materials are not wasted, businesses can improve their bottom line, increase efficiency and leave a lasting legacy for future generations by helping us turn the tide on marine litter,” states Hanekom.

Managing spilled plastic pellets is a priority

While the plastics industry works towards minimising its environmental footprint, controlling waste at the source is a vital process. Managing spilled pellets and waste at plastic manufacturing facilities is a core focus for Operation Clean Sweep.

“While our ultimate goal is to help keep plastic pellets, flakes and powder out of the environment, these efforts can also help improve relations with stakeholder groups and community organisations that expect the industry to minimise its environmental footprint,” explains Hanekom.

Plastic manufacturers can improve their reputations by tackling waste and pollution at the source – in their facilities. Managing this waste and taking an active stance against pollution will also help to improve investment opportunities for plastic manufacturers. Small acts such as cleaning up spilled pellets and recycling waste will help to save the environment and prevent further problems in the future.

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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.

PlasticFreeJuly and what it means to Plastics SA

Plastics SA and the entire industry supports a world that is free from plastic waste. This is the premise behind #PlasticFreeJuly – a global campaign that aims to raise awareness of single-use plastics and the problem of excessive plastic waste in the environment. For the past 25 years, Plastics SA has encouraged reuse, recycling and proper disposal methods for plastic waste.

The fact is that plastics are a valuable commodity. It would be impossible to live a normal life without them. We use plastics every day, whether consciously or unconsciously. “Plastic is an integral part of our modern lifestyle. Strong and versatile, plastic exists because we want convenience at a low price,” says Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.

“It keeps our food fresh, ensures food safety, gives us tamper-proof medications and the list continues. If we were to remove it from our lives, we would have to get rid of almost everything we wear, live in, or work with. The challenge lies in preventing plastic from ending up in the environment after it has been used, and making sure that it is properly discarded so that it can be recycled into a multitude of different new products,” he explains.

The plastic manufacturing industry and its stakeholders do not like to see plastic waste in our rivers, oceans and public spaces – especially during #PlasticFreeJuly. “Our message has always been – and will continue to be – that plastics are too valuable to waste. We have been working relentlessly to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution as part of our drive to see a world without plastic waste,” says Hanekom.

Plastic production and environmental protection can work together

The production of plastic products and the need to protect the environment from pollution can both work at the same time. One does not need to mean the demise of the other. Over 60 000 South Africans are employed in the plastics industry, making it a vital sector of the economy. The country currently has some of the highest plastics recycling rates in the world.

“During 2018, South Africa converted more than 1.8 million tonnes of polymer into plastic products. During the same year, recycled plastic waste tonnages increased by 12.2% – giving South Africa a collection rate of 46.3% and making us a world leader in mechanical recycling,” explains Hanekom.

Environmental protection starts with proper waste disposal methods, which is our core message this #PlasticFreeJuly. Littering and illegal dumping are some of the biggest causes of plastic waste in the environment. “We could start by improving waste infrastructure so that more waste is recovered and prevented from entering the environment,” he suggests.

Plastic products should be reused as much as possible

Plastics SA is an advocate for reusing plastic products. The majority of food packaging, containers, beverage cups, and clamshells are sturdy enough to be reused multiple times. Even so-called single-use plastics such as shopping bags and straws should be kept and reused. South African shopping bags are regulated and manufactured to a thickness of 24-microns – almost double the thickness of plastic bags in most foreign countries. 

This means that these ‘single-use’ products are strong enough to be reused several times, and cost a fraction of the price of cotton alternatives. To add to this, plastic shopping bags are fully recyclable. “To date, the fillers in plastic carrier bags have been removed, producing fully recyclable plastic bags. In some cases, 100 % certified recycled plastic material is used, making them more recyclable and creating a win-win situation for the environment,” Hanekom explains.

#PlasticFreeJuly should be about sustainability

While being a noble cause, #PlasticFreeJuly should encourage sustainability rather than a boycott of plastic products. Recent research around the negative consequences of banning plastics has been compounding around the globe. One such study published by the University of Plymouth’s International Marine Litter Research Unit found that biodegradable plastics rarely break down in the ocean as intended.

The researchers suggest that labelling these ‘eco-friendly’ products as ‘biodegradable’ is misleading and could actually promote littering. Consumers may dump their biodegradable plastics in the belief that they will break down when this is not often the case.

Similarly, research conducted by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food found that cotton shopping bags need to be reused 7100 times to have the same cumulative environmental impact as conventional plastic shopping bags, which are far cheaper and more energy-efficient to produce. 

#PlasticFreeJuly should, therefore, focus on sustainable practices with plastic products rather than an outright ban. “As waste collection improves, we see improved recovery models and the development of a circular economy. The solution lies in addressing our wasteful model of consumption by changing negligent human behaviour and embracing recycling. All it takes is a little willpower from everybody concerned,” Hanekom concludes.

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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.