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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.

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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.

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.

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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.