Posts

Four cool facts about plastics recycling

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

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

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

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

2. Bottles can be recycled into clothing

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

3. Plastics recyclers want your lids

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

4. Plastic shopping bags can be recycled

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

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

___

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.

___

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.