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Do you re-use your PP? Research reveals all

Research has highlighted that a significant proportion of consumers re-use margarine, large yoghurt, and ice-cream tubs made from polypropylene (PP), extending their lifespan and keeping these products out of landfill. Led by the Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation NPC (Polyco), the ‘PP tub re-use research’ aims to guide a higher-level of repurposing for these plastic packaging items by improving their design, for re-use and recyclability.

“Polyco understands the value in research-based credible information. We initiated the research with The Moss Group to determine the extent to which margarine, ice-cream and large yoghurt tubs are re-used after their original use,” says Mandy Naudé, CEO at Polyco. “We wanted to look at this market sector and understand how much of this PP packaging material is placed on the market, how much is recycled, how much is landfilled; then calculate what percentage of these tubs are re-used in households.”

To collect this consumer data, 1550 respondents were engaged telephonically, via online surveys, face to face interviews and social media polls to get feedback on what they do with large yoghurt tubs, margarine tubs, and ice cream tubs. “More than 80% of respondents that participated in the research indicated that they repurposed these plastic tubs, most commonly for food storage, food distribution and household storage” says Naudé.

At least 103 million large yoghurt tubs, 80 million margarine tubs and 31 million ice-cream tubs are produced each year in South Africa, equating to an average of more than 10 000 tonnes of this plastic packaging entering the market. The high repurposing rate results in lower volumes of PP plastic tubs entering landfill or landing up in the natural environment.

Available beach litter data, collected around the country in 2019 and 2020 and provided by a team led by Professor Peter Ryan (UCT) and Dr Maelle Connan (NMU), supports this and indicates that these tubs make up around 3% of the 12 378 bottles and tubs catalogued.
“Supporting the efforts of our PP tub research, we will use these results to guide PP packaging producers and their customers to improve the design of tubs for repurposing,” says Naudé. “Design adjustments such as increasing the strength, improving the lid fit, and having removable labels will lead consumers to use these items as storage containers for longer.”

While the re-use rate of these PP tubs is high, the recycling rate of PP plastic products is approximately 30%. Re-using PP tubs for storage is a temporary solution and eventually these products will need to be disposed of. PP plastic tubs should be designed for circularity, not to be landfilled. Designing products for post-consumer recyclability has now been made a requirement by government.

“This consumer insight research has allowed us to understand what drives the re-use behaviour, which will be very important for brand owners, who under EPR regulations will be required to manage their products at end-of-life to prevent them going to landfill.” New extended-producer responsibility (EPR) regulations are now requiring producers to take responsibility for their products to ensure that consumers can re-use and repurpose products and then recycle them with greater ease.

Driving the market for PP recyclate, designing products for recyclability, creating accessible recycling facilities and increased consumer awareness will increase the recycling rates of these products and lower the volumes of plastic going to landfill.

To find out more about the PP tub research and Polyco, visit their website www.polyco.co.za

What do the numbers on plastic products 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 codes. They tell plastic manufacturers and recyclers which 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 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.

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.  For more info visit www.petco.co.za

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. For more info on the recycling of PE-HD visit www.polyco.co.za

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. For more information visit www.savinyls.co.za

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.  For more info on the recycling of PE-HD visit www.polyco.co.za

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.  For more info on the recycling of PP visit www.polyco.co.za

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. Visit www.polystyrenesa.co.za for more information

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.   Many of these plastics are used in plastic timber manufacture where they are combined with wood shavings to produce jungle gyms, walkways which will last for years despite weather conditions, outdoor furniture etc.

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.

Download the ALL ABOUT PLASTICS booklet for lots more useful information or visit www.plasticsinfo.co.za

 

What is Polypropylene?

Plastic packaging keeps our goods protected, and is vital for the functioning of daily life. Plastics have many advantages, including cost-effective production and being easy to recycle and reuse. Plastics need to be recycled properly in order to maximise their economic value and to minimise their environmental impact.

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. All plastic packaging should display these material identification codes.

What is PP?

PP is a hardy, flexible and versatile polymer that is used to manufacture a variety of moulded products, such as dairy tubs for butter and ice cream, plastic furniture, buckets, car bumpers, fibres and woven cloth. PP is the fourth-most commonly recycled polymer in South Africa due to its various applications in daily life.

Polypropylene is a member of a group of plastics known as polyolefins. Structurally, it is similar to polyethylene, the difference being that every other carbon in the backbone chain has a methyl group attached to it. Its durability and flexibility make it the perfect polymer for packaging and woven products. Recycling figures for PP over the past five years have shown steady growth, year-on-year. This can be attributed to the fact that more applications are being developed for PP and that a well-established collection network exists.

Benefits of PP packaging

It is one of the most widely-used plastics in everyday life. PP holds colour well, doesn’t absorb water and is ideal for such robust applications as moulded luggage and storage boxes, woven bags and carpet backings, houseware and tools. Its flexibility also allows plastics manufacturers to make hinged products from PP, such as clip-on lids for plastic containers.

PP is a non-toxic and non-reactive plastic, so it can be used in the food and beverage industry to store goods for consumption. The hollow nature of the fibre gives it excellent water (and sweat) absorption properties in clothing and other woven fabrics. These characteristics and benefits make PP a highly valuable plastic packaging material and one of the most recycled polymers in South Africa.

How PP packaging is recycled in South Africa

Polypropylene (PP) is one of the most widely-recycled packaging polymers in South Africa. It is used to manufacture dairy containers, plastic furniture, homeware and a variety of other semi-flexible products. PP is quite easy to recycle and has many beneficial uses – including the manufacture of fibres for woven products.

Most of the plastics used for packaging applications are mechanically recycled in South Africa. These materials are often picked, sorted and washed by hand before being processed. PP follows a similar process when it is sent to a recycling facility to be turned into recyclate. The plastic pellets can either then be melted into other PP products or extruded into a fibre.

How PP packaging is recycled

Firstly, discarded PP packaging is collected by waste management companies and informal waste pickers working at local landfills. They source and collect the plastic before bailing them into bundles for transport. These bundles of plastic waste are then taken to recycling facilities where the process begins. 

The plastic bundles are undone and the waste materials are separated by polymer type and grade. Due to the many applications and products made using PP, these materials will have various qualities. The plastic waste is cleaned thoroughly to remove any dirt and contaminants. This makes sure that the PP recyclate batch is pure. Any contaminants or debris could spoil the entire batch and ruin the quality of the end product.

The PP waste is shredded into small bits. These particles are then fed into a large heated extruder which melts the plastic and extrudes it into fibres. These fibres of PP polymer are either sold to textile companies for use in woven products, or they are cut into pellets and bailed for sale to plastics manufacturers. Recycled PP is used to manufacture numerous products, such as garden twine, dustbins, shopping baskets, coathangers, flower pots and outdoor furniture.

PP can be reused in the home

This polymer is highly durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. Consumers should always aim to reuse their PP dairy tubs and homeware before discarding them. Ice cream tubs are the perfect storage containers for leftover food. They also make quick and easy water bowls for pets. Similarly, butter tubs can be used to store workshop equipment or any bits and bobs needed around the house.

The flexibility, durability and non-toxicity of this polymer lends itself to reuse in the home, making PP a highly valuable plastic. By reusing these products, consumers can save a lot of money. If discarding PP is necessary, at least it can be easily recycled, which benefits the local economy and the environment.

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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.

PP plastic packaging successes

Polypropylene (PP) is the fourth most-widely recycled polymer in South Africa. This plastic is durable, versatile and readily available around the world – in fact, just under 62 000 tonnes of PP were recycled last year alone in South Africa. PP is one of the most widely used polymers in the world and 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 – last year we recycled 15% more plastic than Europe. Of this volume, PP packaging was the fourth-highest polymer in terms of volume of recyclate. Most of the PP plastic waste comes in the form of dairy containers, sweet wrappers, plastic furniture, houseware and buckets. These materials are recycled into refuse bins, shopping baskets, coathangers, flower pots and storage containers.

PP recycling is a successful industry

PP waste is a common material processed at South African recyclers because it is readily available and one of the most widely-used plastics. PP is popular in consumer applications, as well as industrial uses, making discarded PP waste an abundant material. It can come in the form of plastic products or a fibre twine.

The end-markets for containers and other semi-flexible packaging polymers, such as PP, are growing steadily year-on-year. The biggest end-market for recycled PP is domestic houseware, by far. This is followed by the furniture sector, then the electric industry. Some of the PP recyclate is sold to the rigid packaging and export markets.

PP plastic has a number of beneficial properties

PP fibre is easy to extrude and also has the right balance of toughness and flexibility to make a variety of woven products. The hollow nature of the fibre gives it excellent water (and sweat) absorption properties in clothing and other fabrics. Moulded PP products hold colour well, don’t absorb water and are ideal for robust applications, such as moulded car bumpers, luggage and storage boxes. 

PP has excellent chemical resistance. It is non-toxic and can be used in food-contact applications –  such as ice cream and yoghurt tubs. However, one of the main advantages of PP is that it is incredibly versatile and robust. This is why the polymer is such a popular choice and has so many applications in modern life. These properties make PP one of the most widely recycled plastics in South Africa.

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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 type 5 – PP

Modern life as we know it would not be possible without plastics and plastic packaging. They keep our goods protected, our food fresh and are vital for the functioning of daily life, whether we are aware of it or not. Plastics have many advantages, including cost-effective production and being easy to recycle and reuse. Plastics need to be recycled properly in order to maximise their economic value and to minimise their environmental impact.

To understand more about plastics, we will shed some light on the different types of polymer, 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 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 fifth polymer used for plastic packaging is polypropylene (PP).

What is PP?

PP is a hardy, flexible and versatile polymer that is used to manufacture a variety of moulded products, such as dairy tubs for butter and ice cream, plastic furniture, buckets, car bumpers, fibres and woven cloth. PP is the fourth-most commonly recycled polymer in South Africa due to its various applications in daily life. Just under 62 000 tonnes of PP were recycled in South African facilities during the 2018 financial year.

Polypropylene is a member of a group of plastics known as polyolefins. Structurally, it is similar to polyethylene, the difference being that every other carbon in the backbone chain has a methyl group attached to it. Its durability and flexibility make it the perfect polymer for packaging and woven products. Recycling figures for PP over the past five years have shown steady growth, year-on-year. This can be attributed to the fact that more applications are being developed for PP and that a well-established collection network exists. 

Benefits of PP packaging

PP has numerous unique characteristics that make it a valuable packaging material. It is one of the most widely-used plastics in everyday life. PP holds colour well, doesn’t absorb water and is ideal for such robust applications as moulded luggage and storage boxes, woven bags and carpet backings, houseware and tools. Its flexibility also allows plastics manufacturers to make hinged products from PP, such as clip-on lids for plastic containers.

PP is a non-toxic and non-reactive plastic, so it can be used in the food and beverage industry to store goods for consumption. The hollow nature of the fibre gives it excellent water (and sweat) absorption properties in clothing and other woven fabrics. These characteristics and benefits make PP a highly valuable plastic packaging material and one of the most recycled polymers in South Africa.

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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.