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How to use recycled plastics in your home

Recycled plastics have endless functions in modern life; they can be used in almost any application imaginable. One of the major end markets for recycled plastic is the furniture and houseware industry. A combined total of 14% of all recycled plastics are sold and used in the South African furniture and houseware sectors – that’s around 50 000 tonnes of plastic being repurposed and recycled into usable products for the home every year.

 

Recycled plastics can be used in a decorative fashion or as useable household items that serve a purpose. These materials can be used to update and refresh a living space or provide a functional use that makes life easier for the homeowner. Many people are not aware that they probably already have recycled plastic products in their homes. This is why the plastics recycling industry is a vital cog of modern society.

 

Not only does recycling give these versatile polymers a second chance at life, but it also helps to preserve the environment and support the national economy. Consumers should aim to recycle or reuse as much of their plastic waste as possible. Here are some tips on how to use recycled plastics in your home.

 

Using recycled plastics in the kitchen

 

There are so many plastic kitchen products available that have been produced from recycled plastics, such as cutlery, cooking utensils, mixing bowls, fridge magnets and chopping boards. Many of these products are made from recycled milk bottles or ice cream tubs. They are highly durable and can withstand many years of use in the kitchen.

 

Cooking utensils made from recycled plastic, such as spatulas and spoons, are highly resistant to high temperatures and are non-toxic – making them perfect for food contact use and cooking. Many of these products are designed to be ergonomic with a modern aesthetic, transforming them into both decorative and functional kitchenware, at the same time.

 

Recycled plastics for the living spaces

 

A few bright and colourful decorative items – made from recycled plastics, of course – can help to brighten up any living space. They can be used to give a living room or bedroom a bold streak of colour. Recycled plastic products such as rugs, seating cubes, vases and picture frames can be used as stylish décor elements that breathe life into an otherwise dull room. So many homes are styled in neutral tones and grey colour schemes, so use recycled plastics to add some playfulness.

 

Recycled plastics in the bathroom

 

There are numerous uses for recycled plastics in the bathroom. Recycled polystyrene can be turned into functional woven baskets that can be used to store cosmetics, shampoo bottles, toothbrushes or serve as wash baskets for dirty laundry. Purchase a non-slip floor mat or bath rug that is made from recycled plastic fibres and consider using a toothbrush made from recycled plastics too. You can also add a splash of colour to your bathroom with a plastic mirror frame made from recycled PVC

 

Recycled plastics in the outdoor spaces

 

There are so many furniture brands on the market that produce chairs, benches, tables and sun loungers from recycled plastic. Many of these furniture items are available in green and brown hues, but some brands have bold statement pieces that can be a real talking point for guests. Recycled plastic furniture is highly durable and completely water-resistant, which is ideal for outdoor applications.

 

Find yourself some floor mats made from recycled materials so that you can wipe your feet before entering your home. These mats can be placed at all exterior doors. Why not purchase a bird feeder or some plant pots made from recycled plastics as well? There are endless uses for these materials outdoors. 

 

Speak to an assistant at your local home store or garden nursery for help with finding recycled plastic products for your house and garden. These products often have decorative and functional uses, but the best part about buying recycled plastics is that you are saving the environment and supporting an entire industry at the same time.

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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.

How PET packaging is recycled in South Africa

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a common packaging polymer around the world. In South Africa, it is widely used to manufacture beverage bottles, vegetable punnets, yoghurt cups and even clothing. PET is easy to recycle and has many beneficial uses – making it the second-most popular packaging material in the country.

Most of the plastics used for various packaging applications are mechanically recycled in South Africa. These materials are often picked, sorted and washed by hand before being processed. However, PET is different. Owing to the volume of PET recyclable waste in South Africa, many recycling facilities use technology to sort and process this polymer.

PET is recycled using automated technology

Discarded PET packaging is collected by waste management companies and informal waste pickers working at landfills. They source and collect the PET plastic before bailing them into dense packs for transport. These bundles of plastic waste are then taken to recycling facilities where the process begins. The bails are fed onto a production line that first passes under strong magnets to remove any metal contaminants.

Next, the PET plastic is fed to a hot washer that removes sand, dirt and oils. The labels on beverage bottles are also removed in this washer. These labels are collected and sent to another recycling production line. The cleaned PET packaging is then fed along a conveyor and scanned using high-speed optical sensors and infrared cameras to sort the waste. 

These sensors detect the type and colour of the PET waste, sorting it into batches of clear, green, brown and mixed colours. It is necessary to sort the plastic by colour as this results in a recyclate with consistent colours at the end of the process. If brown bottles were mixed with green ones, the batch would come out a dirty olive colour. 

Once sorted by colour, these bails of recyclate are sent to a granulator to be turned into small flakes. These flakes are then washed in three stages to remove any residual contaminants and sticky label fragments. The flakes are sent to a heater, which dries them, before being fed to a high-temperature oven to melt. This melted PET resin is extruded (stretched into long strands), cooled and chopped into small pellets. 

These pellets of plastic are sold to manufacturers, who can then use the recycled PET (rPET) to create new beverage bottles. These rPET fibres are also used to manufacture a variety of products, such as polyester clothing, carpeting, underbody shields for vehicles and recycled PET packaging products.

Other methods of recycling PET packaging

The Coca-Cola Company is trying to find more sustainable ways of recycling its PET bottles. It has started to chemically recycle its plastic bottles. This process breaks the polymer down into its basic molecules, separating the colourants, contaminants and impurities at the same time. The result is a number of near-pure products that can be processed back into PET packaging or used for other applications.

While this chemical recycling process is only being trialled in Europe, it could make its way to South Africa in the near future. Right now, South Africa has some of the highest recycling rates in the world – beating Europe by over 15%. PET is one of the easiest plastics to recycle and it can be processed again and again. This has numerous economic and environmental benefits if the plastic waste is disposed of responsibly.

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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.