All About Plastics: What is PE-LD?

Plastics are highly valuable materials that make modern life possible. Plastic packaging has many advantages, including affordable production and ease of recycling and reuse. Plastics need to be recycled properly in order to maximise their economic value and to minimise their environmental impact.

Find out more about the various polymers, their benefits and their recyclability properties, including what products can be made from recycled plastic. The material identification codes are numerical symbols from one to seven that are used to identify the types of plastic.

This coding system is used around the globe by recyclers, waste management companies and plastics manufacturers. 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 fourth polymer used for plastic packaging is low-density polyethylene (PE-LD or LDPE).

What is PE-LD?

PE-LD is a flexible and low-weight form of polyethylene that is used to manufacture a variety of plastic bags, wraps, toys, phone cables and storage tanks. PE-LD is the most commonly recycled polymer in South Africa due to its multiple applications for daily life. Just under 120 000 tonnes of PE-LD were processed and recycled in South African facilities during the 2018 financial year.

Its flexibility and durability make it ideal for packaging and bags that need to be lightweight but reusable. This plastic is in high demand by recyclers as it is used to manufacture bin liners, construction film, furniture covers and many types of plastic bags. The substantial growth in the recycling of PE-LD can be attributed to the fact that barriers to entry are fairly low and a well-established collection network exists.

Benefits of PE-LD packaging

PE-LD has numerous unique characteristics that make it a valuable packaging material. It differs from normal polyethylene because it has a lower molecular weight which makes it lighter and more flexible – less dense than conventional polyethylene. All polyethylene polymers have a whitish colour and are semi-crystalline, but PE-LD is more flexible.

It is ideal for manufacturing plastics bags, sheets, films, tubes, sachets and cables. PE-LD recycling has a 100% conversion rate when processing plastic bags into new plastic bags – there is no wastage at all. The flexible packaging market is also the largest consumer of plastic recyclate – 19% of the South African market for recycled plastic is for flexible packaging. This means that PE-LD is a highly sought after material for recyclers and packaging manufacturers.

PE-LD is non-toxic and non-reactive, so it can be used in the food and beverage industry to shrink-wrap and store produce for consumption. These characteristics and benefits make PE-LD one of the most valuable plastic packaging materials in the world and the number one most recycled polymer in South Africa.

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.

SAVA tests SA gumboots

PlasticsSA takes training offering online

Plastics SA Training Division turning a challenge into an opportunity.

After all training courses were halted with immediate effect when the COVID-19 lockdown regulations were announced at the end of March, PlasticsSA’s Training Division turned the challenge into an opportunity!

Although we have never offered online training before, the Regional Managers  and Trainers together with the Training Administrators at Plastics|SA rose to the challenge of transforming all of the theoretical and classroom practical learning content that they usually offer for in-classroom learning, into an interactive, live online platform.

We’ve been overwhelmed  by the industry’s positive response to our online training offerings and excited that vital training continues in their organisations. 

Companies who have already enrolled learners for the online learning experience include Verigreen, Tropic Plastics, Fibre-Wound, Smiths Manufacturing, First National Battery, Mpact Plastics, Master Plastics, Chespak, Plaslantic, Gold Sun Industries, Lumotech Uitenhage and PlastiColors.

Many of our learners do not have access to their own computers, data or a stable Wi-Fi connection. However, thanks to careful planning and close working partnerships with their employers, our efforts have paid off and it’s happening! Because most learners are enrolled by their employers, the onus rests on the company to provide a conducive learning environment and a reliable computer and internet connection to ensure the success of the learning programme.

We are proud of our team of trainers and the students who embraced this new way of life.  They have gone out of their way to be creative and ensure that the practical components of training are satisfied through the use of material samples and examples of quality defects in the training sessions. A specially designed virtual classroom has been created for the online training, using the same format as the classroom-based training. The learning content continues to be very interactive, with many classroom activities and exercises interspersed throughout the course.

Engaged and focused learners, throughout the learning process, is essential and all of the necessary steps are in place to make the online experience as rewarding, interactive and seamless as possible. The practical aspects of the training that require hands-on experience, are scheduled for when the companies are able to arrange safe transportation of the learners to one of Plastics|SA’s three training facilities located in Midrand (Gauteng), Maitland (Western Cape) and Pinetown (KwaZulu-Natal).

We have put all of the necessary safety measures and protocols  in place to accommodate the learners for practicals, but it is up to the employer companies to determine when their employees can complete their training offsite.

Learning programmes already on offer online include:

  • Skills Programmes and Learnerships viz. Principles of Quality
  • Apply study and learning techniques
  • Read and Interpret Engineering Drawings
  • Understand and Deal with HIV Aids
  • Apply SHEQ Processes and Procedures
  • Maintain and Monitor SHEQ Systems & Procedures
  • Process Machine Construction
  • Understand Production Process and Quality Principles in Plastics Manufacturing
  • Basic Raw Materials and Generic Management.

Download an illustration of how the process works.

For more information please contact the branch in your region.

Western Cape and Port Elizabeth:

KwaZulu Natal and East London:





Innovative bottle spacers treat asthma

Innovative bottle spacers to treat asthma

An innovative approach is set to make a huge impact on treating asthma in South Africa, made more critical during the coronavirus pandemic. Asthma treatment is usually given by an inhaler, but to get medication more effectively to the lungs in a crisis, the use of a spacer along with the inhaler, or a nebuliser is required.


Extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions.  The bottle spacer programme, pioneered at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town aims at bridging the gap between expensive commercial spacers and the need in low income communities. The team has tested and evaluated the efficacy of using plastic bottle spacers, which are immediately available, instead of expensive spacers.


This plastic bottle spacer not only allows the medication to work much more effectively, but also has the added benefit of minimising droplets in the air and ultimately reducing the risk to staff and patients becoming infected with the coronavirus.


When one uses an asthma pump directly in the mouth most of the spray hits the back of the throat and does not go into the lungs.  A spacer is a chamber filled with air, with the asthma pump fitting into the back.  When you spray the pump first inside the chamber and then breathe this air into one’s lungs, the spray goes into the deepest part of the lungs where it is needed the most.


“Since Prof Heather Zar first pioneered bottle spacers back in the late 90s using a manual burning technique, we have been using them at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.  But from just a few hundred units a year, we needed to produce tens of thousands, to facilitate the large-scale use of spacers in the public health service across the country,” Prof Michael Levin, Head of Allergy at Red Cross and project lead, explains.


Polyoak Packaging partnered with Habitat industries to create a custom blow-mould base with an indentation in the shape of an asthma pump nozzle.


“During production when the bottle is blown and the plastic is still soft, air is blasted into the bottle base which creates the inhaler size extrusion. So, after that, the only small manual task is to slice off the end of the indentation leaving a perfect-fit attachment hole for the inhaler.  Polyoak has even been able to include the Allergy Foundation website address on the base of the bottle,” continues Prof Levin.


“This is an example of an innovative boundary spanning project which aims to bring a low cost clinically-effective solution to patients across the province, and potentially the country,” says Dr Anita Parbhoo, Medical Manager at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

Prof Mike Levin is excited about using the new bottle spacer

The innovative bottle spacer with extrusion

The inhaler fits snugly into the hole.


Information Courtesy of Western Cape Government



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.


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  • 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. (
  • 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. (