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All about Plastics – What is 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. ___ 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.

SAPPMA urges government to allow pipe manufacturers to operate

“Safe drinking water is a prerequisite for protecting public health and all human activity. Properly treated waste water is vital for preventing disease and protecting the environment. The plastic pipe industry is therefore undoubtedly a critical sector that is relied upon by communities around the country for water distribution and sewage disposal, as well as by agricultural and mining operations who recently received the go-ahead to resume their operations,” explains Jan Venter, CEO of SAPPMA.

Repeating their concern about large segments of the country’s population that still do not have access to clean water for drinking, cooking or sanitation, SAPPMA said frequent hand washing with soap and clean water continues to be one of the first lines of defense against contracting the highly contagious Coronavirus.

As an emergency measure, the Government purchased 18 875 water tanks to make clean water available to remote areas. To date, however, only half (7 689) of these tanks have been installed four weeks after the declaration of a state of disaster.

“Whilst these tanks are a step in the right direction, it is only a temporary solution. The country desperately needs a reliable network of water and sewage pipes capable of serving the whole population. Permanent, piped water should be made available to these communities as a matter of urgency,” Venter stressed.

Several neighbourhoods in Port Elizabeth experienced the impacts of failing water infrastructure first hand shortly after the lockdown started. A critical pipe which supplied reservoirs in the city failed, causing reservoirs to drain and forcing people to queue to get water from tankers. The same could happen in municipalities around the country if the pipe infrastructure supplying water, sanitation, gas and telecommunications are not repaired, maintained or upgraded.

“Prohibiting our members from re-opening their manufacturing plants in order to be able to supply the pipes needed for infrastructure maintenance could have a direct impact on the quality of life of thousands of South Africans”, Venter warned.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in the USA classified pipe manufacturers as part of critical infrastructure involved in the water and wastewater systems sector and labelled them as “imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency for both public health and safety as well as community well-being”. As a result, it petitioned for these companies to be allowed to work during periods of community restriction, access management, social distancing, or closure.

Likewise, the British Plastics Federation stressed the importance of allowing plastic pipe producers to operate during the period of lockdown, stating that “after packaging, construction is the second largest user of plastics, where critical products include plastic pipe systems for both drinking water and drainage”.

“Plastic pipe manufacturing, distribution and installation must be allowed to function without further delay in order to provide communities with an uninterrupted supply of necessary infrastructure. All our members have been issued with clear guidelines to help limit the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of their employees. We therefore urge Government to evaluate what the consequences might be if these factories are kept closed any longer and to recognise the plastic pipe industry as part of the essential services exempted from the forced temporary closure,” Venter concludes.

 

DOW joins Hands with PlasticsSA to ensure Clean Hands

Social distancing and good hygiene are two practices that are at the centre of the fight against COVID-19. Thousands of people living in Cape Town’s poorer communities and townships, however, do not have access to clean, running water in their homes in order to regularly wash their hands.

In an effort to reduce the risk of cross infection in the Mother City’s most vulnerable communities, Dow Southern Africa partnered with Plastics|SA and the Justice Coalition last week to distribute 20 liter PacXpert plastics pouches –  lightweight, refillable bags, containing soapy water – to COVID-19 action community groups operating in Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Woodstock and Wynberg. The City of Cape Town’s Solid Waste Department also received 80 of these bags for use on their trucks by waste collectors.

“The COVID-19 pandemic presents us with new challenges every day. Recognising the health dangers that are posed when many hands touch and use the same tap to access running water, we wanted to offer a practical solution that would help flatten the curve and prevent people from leaving the safe confines of their homes during the period of national lockdown,” says Cicelia van Rooi, Managing Director of Dow Southern Africa.

The PacXpert pouch is an award-winning, flexible and sustainable alternative to using conventional containers. It lightweight, durable, refillable and easy to use thanks to its distinctive cube shape that makes it very stable. The pouch stands equally well upright, on its side or cab be hanged.  It can also be re-used many times over and is fully recyclable.

According to John Kieser, Plastics|SA’s Sustainability Manager, they have been distributing these bags under the banner of Dow’s Project Butterfly – a social initiative that was launched in 2017 with the primary focus of creating jobs and reducing plastic pollution in South Africa through education, clean-ups and innovation-focused initiatives.

“We were able to distribute these bags quickly and effectively to various smaller community groups operating around the city and have dedicated teams in place to replenish the bags with soap and water twice a day,” Kieser said.

“Dow supplies the world with materials needed for many life-critical applications, such as disinfectants, sanitizers, cleansers, personal protection equipment for healthcare professionals, memory foams for hospital beds, and more. I am very proud that we are able to make a small, but very important contribution to fighting the pandemic by putting our assets to work to help protect human health, protect our environment, and help reduce the impact of the pandemic on the world we all share,” Van Rooi concludes.

 

For more information visit www.dow.com or www.plasticsinfo.co.za

 

Notes

  • The Justice Coalition is a democratic, mass-based social movement that campaigns for the advancement of the constitutional rights to life, dignity, equality, freedom and safety for all people, but especially those living in informal settlements across South Africa. (sjc.org.za)
  • Dow (NYSE: DOW) combines global breadth, asset integration and scale, focused innovation and leading business positions to achieve profitable growth. The Company’s ambition is to become the most innovative, customer centric, inclusive and sustainable materials science company. Dow’s portfolio of plastics, industrial intermediates, coatings and silicones businesses delivers a broad range of differentiated science-based products and solutions for its customers in high-growth market segments, such as packaging, infrastructure and consumer care. Dow operates 109 manufacturing sites in 31 countries and employs approximately 36,500 people. Dow delivered sales of approximately $43 billion in 2019. References to Dow or the Company mean Dow Inc. and its subsidiaries. For more information, please visit dow.comor follow @DowNewsroom on Twitter.
  • Dow is helping to create jobs and reduce plastic pollution in South Africa through their social initiative, Project Butterfly. Introduced in 2017 in the township of Tembisa, Johannesburg, Project Butterfly works with non-profit organizations and local communities to tackle poor waste management through education, clean-ups and innovation-focused initiatives. Currently active in Johannesburg and Durban, Project Butterfly is part of Dow’s global commitment to address plastic pollution and create a more sustainable planet. (dow.com)

 

 

Plastics SA announces pollution alliance

Plastics SA is pleased to announce the formation of a strategic alliance that will tackle plastic waste. The South African Alliance to End Plastic Pollution in the Environment is a united group of stakeholders in the plastics value chain that will collaborate to prevent and eradicate plastic waste in our oceans, rivers and lands.

All countries are fighting pollution and excessive waste. South Africa’s pollution problem will require a unique solution and input from all sectors of society; citizens, businesses and the government. This war on plastic pollution has reached a critical stage. We must take steps to educate South Africans about the dangers of pollution while improving our waste management services and facilities at the same time.

This alliance will speed up the process of finding a workable plan that is best suited to the South African context. It needs to be aligned with our local waste management initiatives and fit the context of our environmental, socio-political and economic objectives. The alliance will essentially find the best solutions for South Africa, as a whole, and put an end to plastic waste in the environment.

What will the South African Alliance to End Plastic Pollution in the Environment do?

This alliance’s first priority will be to tackle single-use plastic packaging waste. All stakeholders will work together to fast-track the development of environmentally-sound plastic products. The alliance will also work to improve plastic recycling rates as soon as possible. 

South Africa currently has some of the highest plastic recycling rates in the world, but there is always room for improvement. Alliance members will work to create more plastic products from recycled content and ensure that plastic products become 100% recyclable in the near future.

Sustainable life cycle assessments of plastic products will form the foundation of these solutions. Working alongside the government, communities and key research institutions, the alliance will hopefully find a solution to plastic waste that benefits the entire country and protects existing jobs in the plastics industry.

The alliance has a time-based plan

The South African Alliance to End Plastic Pollution in the Environment currently has a plan to make an immediate impact on plastic pollution. We will also remain mindful of other global initiatives, the National Development Plan (NDP 2030) and other local objectives around plastic waste.

Existing local recycling projects are increasing and they are helping to boost the plastic recycling rates. However, a more long-term solution still needs to be developed to deal with the lack of waste management services and infrastructure, especially in small towns in South Africa.

The problem of plastic pollution is complicated and, as such, requires the input from all stakeholders in the plastics industry, the government and ordinary citizens. This will help the alliance to find the most effective, sustainable and economically-viable solution to our plastic waste problem.

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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.