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.

PVC plastic successes in South Africa

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the fifth most-widely recycled polymer in South Africa. This plastic is strong, durable and can come in three forms – rigid, flexible and liquid. PVC is considered to be one of the most versatile thermoplastics and it is recyclable in South Africa. It can be recycled into numerous products, making it a valuable polymer for the economy.

South Africa has some of the highest recycling rates in the world – just under 21 000 tonnes of PVC plastic was recycled in 2018 alone. Of this volume, most of the PVC plastic came from gumboots, cables, hosepipes, plumbing pipes, conduit and gutters. These materials are mainly recycled into shoe soles, car mats and plastic speed humps.

PVC plastic recycling is a successful industry

PVC recyclate is currently in high demand due to its various applications and low energy requirements. This plastic is inherently flame-resistant and is impermeable to liquids. PVC is cost-effective to manufacture and, because of its versatility, it is an abundant plastic polymer. It is widely used in the construction, irrigation, medical, mining and motoring industry as a result of these properties.

PVC can also be recycled into various rigid, flexible and liquid products, including rubber shoes, flooring, trays, mats, insulation, raincoats and many more. The clothing and footwear industry purchases the majority portion of PVC recyclate, followed by the construction and agriculture sectors. This polymer has many uses as a recycled material in various industries in South Africa.

PVC has a number of beneficial properties

PVC is a popular plastic material because of its advantageous properties. During the manufacturing process, chlorine is obtained from ordinary salt and is chemically combined with ethylene, which is derived from coal in South Africa. PVC is always compounded with additives to give it a range of properties, such as rigidity, flexibility, fire resistance and liquidity. 

PVC has excellent resistance to wear and tear, making it ideal for products that need to withstand hard usage over many years. It is lightweight, cost-effective and requires little energy to manufacture. PVC is highly valuable in this regard as it supports economic development and the environment, unlike many plastic alternatives. These properties make PVC a popular plastic polymer. It is widely recycled in South Africa thanks to our strong and resilient recycling industry. For more information on South Africa’s vinyls industry, visit SAVinyls.co.za

___

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?

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.

___

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.

South African PET recycling rates amongst the highest in the world

The latest recycling statistics have been released by Plastics SA and the results show solid improvement. South Africans can be proud of their recycling efforts so far. The country currently recycles 15% more than most European countries. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles are some of the most recycled products in South Africa. 

South Africa recycled around 519 400 tonnes of plastic in the last year alone, which gives us an input recycling rate of 46.3% for all plastics. Of this volume, 74 328 tonnes were PET beverage bottles. PET recycling has steadily been increasing over the past five years. The waste management and plastics industries expect PET recycling volumes to reach 70% by 2022.

Beverage producers and plastics manufacturers are working with the government and waste management companies to further improve these recycling rates of plastic bottles. The majority of PET bottles collected for recycling comes from landfills around major urban areas. Improved collection and recycling in small towns and remote communities would give the PET recycling statistics an additional boost.

PET recycling rates improve every year

The recycling rates for PET bottles has shown steady improvement over the past few years. In South Africa, in 2018, 63% of all plastic PET bottles produced, were recycled – this figure was 55% in 2016. This puts South Africa slightly ahead of international standards and makes the country one of the world-leaders for recycling.

The improvement in recycling rates can be attributed to a number of factors. Firstly, South African consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of recycling and responsible waste disposal practices. Secondly, more businesses and restaurants are starting to implement recycling initiatives. Household and workplace recycling practices are becoming more commonplace.

Thirdly, the government is slowly updating waste management regulations and frameworks for recyclable waste. For example, the City of Johannesburg implemented mandatory recycling in households in 2018. This legislation ensured proper separation at source of recyclable household waste from organic waste and non-recyclable refuse.

Waste generation also adds to the increase in PET recycling

South Africa and the rest of the continent is producing more waste every year – in fact, experts predict that the volume of waste generated in Africa will double by 2025. This growing volume of refuse also means that there is more to recycle; driving up recyclable waste volumes every year.

The government and industry are making huge investments into post-consumer recycled PET products (called rPET). Most of this rPET is being used to manufacture new beverage bottles. A large portion of rPET is also used to produce plastic sheeting for punnets and trays, used in the food industry and for packaging. PET is the only recycled material that can be used in food-contact applications without the risk of contaminating food and drinks.

South Africa is on the right path when it comes to plastics recycling. The steady improvement in PET recycling statistics is expected to continue in the years to come. “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,” concludes Hanekom.

___

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 releases latest recycling figures

The latest South African recycling statistics have been released by Plastics SA. The results reveal that the country has a dynamic and well-supported recycling industry and that plastics recycling rates are steadily improving year-on-year. These statistics come from 2018 as the figures had to be tallied and verified before public release.

The recycling and plastics industries both faced difficulties during the course of 2018; from a struggling national economy and increased electricity tariffs to shifts in waste regulations and industry strike action. However, both industries managed to stay afloat and make important strides forward. 

“It is often said that one should not waste a good crisis, and this difficult period not only taught us valuable lessons, but also presented us with exciting opportunities, such convincing most of the retailers to move their carrier bags from virgin [plastic] to 100% PCR (post-consumer resin) content after months of lobbying, and at the same time also improving the recyclability of the bags by reducing the filler content,” says Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.

Growth in plastics recycling

South Africa has always had high recycling rates, beating many developed countries. When China and other Asian countries banned the import of waste, many European countries battled to find alternative solutions to processing their waste. South Africa did not face this difficulty as the majority of our plastic waste is already collected and recycled locally.

As a result, South Africa 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. In total, the country collected 519 400 tonnes of plastics for recycling. 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. Plastics recycling also saved 246 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions; the equivalent to the greenhouse gases produced by 51 200 vehicles. 

Almost three-quarters of the plastic that was recycled in South Africa during 2018 was recovered from landfills and other post-consumer sources. The problem with this is that these plastics are often contaminated by food and other waste materials, which makes them more expensive to process.

The most widely-recycled plastic material in South Africa is low-density polyethylene (PE-LD and PE-LLD) packaging film. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles used for beverages are the second most-recycled plastic product, followed by high-density polyethylene (PE-HD) bottles, drums and crates. The recycling rates of polypropylene (PP) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics also showed a steady increase during 2018.

Recycling beneficial to the economy

The plastics recycling industry sustained over 7890 formal jobs during 2018. It is estimated that around 58 470 workers and waste pickers received an income through the entire recycling supply chain. This is 6000 more income-generating opportunities than in 2017. Through the procurement of recyclables, an estimated R2.3-billion was injected into the South African economy.

“Recyclables are a valuable resource and should be removed from the solid waste stream before reaching landfill.  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,” says Hanekom.

South Africa continues to be a world leader in plastics recycling as we have a robust industry. However, there is always room for improvement. Littering and illegal dumping continue to be a nationwide epidemic, threatening the environment and human health. The country needs to work towards improving infrastructure and service delivery in the waste management sector.

This, along with further campaigns to educate the public about the importance of recycling and the dangers of littering, will help to boost recycling rates. 2018 was a year of growth for the recycling sector. The steady improvement is a positive sign for the future of South Africa’s waste management and plastics industries.

___

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.

Steps to becoming a good plastic recycler

Recycling is an important step to controlling excess waste in the environment. Plastics organisations around the world are calling on all consumers of plastic products to think about their waste disposal practices and to recycle their plastic waste. Here is a list of seven easy commitments that children and adults can use to become effective recycling citizens.

While plastic waste does pose a threat to the environment, it can be minimised through proper waste management and disposal practices. Plastic is a valuable material that is vital to modern life, so it does not make sense to ban it completely. Rather, we should be focusing our efforts on controlling waste and avoiding litter.

Everyone can play a part in recycling. “To win the war on plastic pollution, every role-player in the plastics industry needs to confront some hard truths. This includes us as the producers of plastics, but it also includes government and consumers,” says Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.

“In the coming weeks and months, we, as the plastics industry, will embark on a sustained campaign to persuade government and citizens to join us in the war on plastic pollution,” he explains. Here are seven commitments that you can make to become an effective plastic recycler:

Seven steps to becoming a good plastic recycler

  1. Reuse plastic products – Plastic is a reusable material; even so-called single-use plastics such as straws, shopping bags and coffee cups are reusable. Keep these items and use them again and again. Where discarding plastic is the only option, make sure you recycle it rather than dispose of it in the general rubbish bin.
  2. Help friends with recycling – Speak to your family and friends about recycling their waste. Help them to set up recycling bins in their own home and explain the importance of keeping plastic waste out of landfills. 
  3. Repair old products – Repair your old plastic products and appliances before discarding them. This could save money and the environment.
  4. Only put clean, dry plastics in the recycling bin – Plastic food and drink containers that contain food waste and residue can contaminate entire recycling batches. That is why it is important to rinse plastics with water (grey water will do) and ensure that they are dry before placing them in the recycling bin.
  5. Look online and share – Google is a universally-accessible tool in South Africa. Look online for the best ways to recycle waste so that you can improve your knowledge. Share these recycling tips with your friends and family to spread the word.
  6. Don’t ignore other recyclables – Plastic is not the only material that can be recycled. Metals, paper and glass are other important items that need to be recycled rather than disposed of in general rubbish bins. Don’t forget to recycle your light bulbs and batteries too.
  7. Recycle all packaging – Plastic and paper packaging are two of the most common waste items found in the environment. Almost every single product is packaged in plastic or paper these days. Recycle all of these materials, including the polystyrene foam padding and any metal packaging too.

If everyone takes responsibility for their own waste and recycles as much as they can, we can minimise the waste that ends up in our rivers, oceans and lands. Waste management and correct disposal practices are the most effective method of preventing plastic pollution.

___

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.