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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.

Major global vehicle manufacturer recycles over 1-billion plastic bottles

Plastics are such important materials for daily life. We can find them anywhere we look; they have multiple uses in all aspects of society, from the home and work to medicine and construction. Plastics can even be found in the automotive industry. Did you know that Ford uses recycled plastics on its vehicles?

 

The global vehicle manufacturer recycles over 1-billion plastic bottles every year and turns them into vehicle parts, such as underbody shields and wheel arch liners. “The underbody shield is a large part and, for a part that big, if we use solid plastic it would likely weigh three times as much,” says Ford design engineer Thomas Sweder.

 

Ford first started using recycled plastics in the 1990s, however, over the last two decades, the need and uses for plastic vehicle components have grown exponentially. This means that the amount of raw plastic required by vehicle manufacturers has risen dramatically. By using recycled plastics, Ford is helping to establish a circular economy and adding to the environmental and economic benefits of the recycling industry.

 

How plastic bottles are turned into vehicle parts

 

It takes around 300 plastic bottles to manufacture all the plastic components for a single vehicle. Plastic bottles are collected from recycling bins and processed at local recycling facilities. The recyclate is then sold to suppliers who extrude it and turn it into a fibre. 

 

These fibres are woven together with other materials in a textile process to make a sheet of lightweight plastic material, which is then used to make the automotive parts. “We look for the best materials to work with to make our parts and, in this case, we are also creating many environmental benefits,” explains Sweder. 

 

Plastics help to improve vehicle performance

 

Due to its lightweight characteristics and durability, recycled plastic is the ideal material for non-cosmetic components such as underbody shields and wheel arch liners. These parts help to improve the aerodynamic efficiency and the fuel economy of the vehicles. 

 

“Ford is among the leaders when it comes to using materials such as this, and we do it because it makes sense, technically and economically, as much as it makes sense for the environment. This material is very well suited for the parts we’re making, and is extremely functional,” states Sweder. 

 

In South Africa, Ford has established recycling programmes at its dealerships and manufacturing plants. The company also encourages all of its suppliers to recycle their plastic waste. This helps to minimise the volume of plastics that end up in landfills and also support the local recycling industry.

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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 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.

International Coastal Clean-up Day

September is Clean-up and Recycle Month in South Africa. A number of community clean-ups and waste collection campaigns are being organised around the country in order to minimise pollution in the environment. One of the important days to note this month is International Coastal Clean-up Day, taking place on Saturday, 21 September 2019. Be part of this worldwide initiative.

Coastal communities around South Africa are encouraged to take part in beach clean-ups and environmental rehabilitations to remove litter and pollution from these areas. The coastline is a vital environment that is prone to litter. Floating refuse can get washed down rivers and be brought in from ocean currents.

Citizens can organise or take part in clean-up initiatives in their areas on Saturday the 21st. By working together to remove debris and litter, residents in seaside towns can help to improve the state of their environments. This will protect the multitude of animals that share the beaches and waters around these coastal communities.

Plastics SA supports all types of pollution eradication and encourages consumers to recycle their plastic waste. We will be taking part in some of these initiatives on International Coastal Clean-up Day. Get in touch with your local community leaders and environmental organisations to find out what clean-up campaigns have been planned in your area. Or, you could visit the Clean-up and Recycle South Africa events page for more information.

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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.

National Recycling Day South Africa

September marks national Clean-up and Recycle Month. Numerous community clean-ups and litter collection campaigns are being organised around the country in order to minimise pollution in the environment. One of the important days to note this month is National Recycling Day, taking place on Friday 20 September 2019. 

Anyone can host or take part in a recycling initiative in their area. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about the importance of recycling waste. Not only does it give products such as metals, plastics, glass and paper a second life, but recycling also helps to keep this waste out of the environment and landfills.

South Africa already has some of the highest recycling rates in the world, but there is always room for improvement. Citizens are urged to separate and recycle their household waste in order to boost sustainability and environmental cleanliness. Recycling is also a major contributor to the South African economy – nearly R3-billion was injected into the local economy in 2018 thanks to the recycling industry.

Plastics SA supports all types of pollution eradication and encourages consumers to recycle their plastic waste. We will be taking part in some of these initiatives on National Recycling Day. Get in touch with your local community leaders and environmental organisations to find out what recycling initiatives have been planned in your area. Alternatively, you can visit the Clean-up and Recycle South Africa events page or the National Recycling Forum website for more information.

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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.

Plastics SA hosts four clean-up projects

September 2019 is Clean-up and Recycle SA month – a time to unite and tackle litter and pollution in the environment. Plastics SA encourages all forms of pollution eradication, and as such, has already hosted four clean-up projects this year. We have installed a river catchment project, hosted Operation Clean Sweep, run educational demonstrations and led a fishing line bin installation project. Find more about these projects below:

River catchment project

Plastics SA recently teamed up with environmentalists in Durban to tackle ocean pollution. The team installed a litter boom where the Umbilo and Umhlatuzana Rivers meet before they enter the Durban Harbour, to catch any floating waste before it enters the Indian Ocean.

These booms are designed to trap litter that is washed down the rivers from upstream. The booms also allow for the trapped litter to be collected from a single point. These devices doe not pose a risk to any species found in the rivers. This river catchment project has helped to eradicate a large amount of litter that would certainly have found its way into the ocean environment. 

Litter collected in a river boom

Operation Clean Sweep

Operation Clean Sweep has been an ongoing project of Plastics SA since 2017. This initiative aims for zero plastic pellet, flake or powder loss at plastics manufacturing facilities in South Africa. By preventing particles of plastic from being washed into drains or blown away in the wind at the source, we can minimise the presence of the particles in the environment.

The Operation Clean Sweep pledge has been signed by a number of plastics manufacturers, producer responsibility organisations, recyclers, retailers and representative associations. Every segment of the plastics industry has a role to play in minimising plastic pellet loss, by implementing good housekeeping and pellet, flake, and powder containment practices.

Educational initiatives

Plastics SA partnered with AquaAmazing to host a stand at the Sasol Techno X Exhibition. Over 19 000 visitors attended this event in Sasolburg, including 4000 learners from 78 schools. We used the platform to highlight the value of plastics and educate attendees on the importance of recycling plastic waste. 

AquaAmazing performed nine shark dissections during the exhibition to reveal the threat of marine pollution to its creatures. As a result, Plastics SA and AquaAmazing received the award for the most talked-about exhibitor at the event.

Fishing line bin installations

Discarded and disused fishing line can pose a serious threat to marine life. It can cut into the skin of creatures and entangle any moving animal swimming past. This project aimed to raise public awareness of the negative impacts of discarded fishing line on sea creatures, as well as to encourage fishermen to dispose of their fishing line in a responsible manner.

Plastics SA teamed up with the Dyer IslandConservation Trust, the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Southern Africa (WESSA), MacNeil Plastics and the South African Plastics Pipe Makers Association (SAPPMA) to create a nationwide network of fishing line recycling bins. This fishing line bin project has already led to the installation of 386 bins at various beaches and ports around South Africa.

One of the main goals of the project is to install 500 bins across the country’s coastline and as far afield as Mozambique, where South African holidaymakers regularly go on deep-sea fishing excursions. To date, over 350 kilograms of discarded fishing line has been removed and recycled. Over 500 fishing hooks have also been retrieved from the bins.

These four projects are just a few that have been organised or supported by Plastics SA. During the month of September 2019, we will also be getting involved in a number of clean-up projects, including Clean-up and Recycle SA Week (16 to 21 September), National Recycling Day SA (20 September), International Coastal Clean-up Day (21 September) and ‘Let’s Do It’ World Clean-up (21 September). Come join us and help to clean our environment from litter and 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.

Key statistics from latest recycling report

Plastics SA recently released the latest recycling report that details the state of the South African plastics recycling industry. South Africa is amongst the best countries in the world when it comes to plastics recycling. Even developed nations with sophisticated collection and sorting systems do not recycle as much plastic as South Africa.

The recycling report outlines a number of statistics and key findings about the industry. Recyclers, waste management companies and the government can use the report to improve current recycling rates and build better infrastructure. Here are some of the major statistics from the report:

  • South Africa collected 519 370 tonnes of plastics for recycling in 2018 – 6.7% more than the previous year.
  • Of this volume, we processed 352 000 tonnes of plastic waste and turned it into raw material and recycled products – breaking the 350 000 tonne barrier for the first time ever.
  • South Africa recycled 46.3% of all plastic products in 2018, whereas Europe only recycled 31.1%, making us a world-leader in mechanical recycling. 
  • South Africa currently recycles around 67% of all plastic PET bottles produced – this figure was 55% in 2016. 
  • Plastics recycling also saved 246 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions; the equivalent to the greenhouse gases produced by 51 200 vehicles.
  • The tonnages recycled into raw materials saved enough barrels of oil to fuel 200 000 cars for one year, doing 30 000 km per annum.
  • Total South African converter demand reached 1.544-million tonnes of virgin polymer – an increase of 3.5% from the previous year and accounting for 0.4% of the world’s plastics production.
  • 34.1% of South Africans do not have access to regular waste collection services.
  • Recycling tonnages have grown by 64% since 2009. 
  • Virgin polymer production has grown since 21% since 2009.
  • 70% of all recyclable materials originate from landfills and other post-consumer sources.
  • South Africa has 300 active recycling companies.
  • The top 30 recyclers in South Africa currently process 54% of the country’s plastic waste.
  • Gauteng has half of all recycling companies in South Africa. They handle 58% of the country’s recyclate.
  • The plastics recycling industry provides direct, formal employment for over 7890 people. The industry creates a further 58 470 income-generating jobs.
  • Through the procurement of recyclables, an estimated R2.3-billion was injected into the South African economy in 2018.
  • The buying prices of recycled plastics grew by 15% in the last year.

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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.

What do the numbers on plastic recyclables 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 code. They tell plastic manufacturers and recyclers what 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 identification codes were first developed by the American Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), now called the Plastics Industry Trade Association (PITA). 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. Here is a breakdown of these symbols and what they mean.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Consumers widely believe that if a plastic product contains these symbols, then they must be recycled. 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.

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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 recyclate end-markets in South Africa

Plastics recycling is currently one of the best solutions to pollution. However, for recycling to remain a successful and viable industry, there needs to be end-markets with continuous demand. Plastic recyclate is a valuable material that many plastics manufacturers are using to create products.

Plastic recycling has become a focus for many retailers and consumers. This has helped to increase the supply of plastic waste for recyclers. In turn, more recyclate is produced every year – South Africa processed over 352 000 tonnes of plastic recyclate in 2018 alone, surpassing the 350 000 tonne mark for the first time ever.

Suitable end-markets are vital for the sustainability of the plastics recycling sector. They ensure that the plastic recyclate has a purpose and can be sold for the benefit of the South African economy. The country currently exports 5.6% of its plastic recyclate to neighbouring countries and Asia. The rest is used in local end-markets, in conjunction with virgin plastics, if it is of good quality and up to national standards.

Domestic end-markets for plastic recyclate

The majority of plastic recyclate in South Africa is used to manufacture flexible packaging. Just under 20% is used to make recyclable shopping bags, bin liners and packaging film. Grocery bags from major supermarkets are being manufactured with a high content of recycled material which has helped to increase the demand for plastic recyclate in South Africa.

The next biggest end-market for plastic recyclate is clothing and footwear; 14% of recycled plastic is sold into this sector. Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) fibres make up the bulk of this recyclate for the clothing industry. The rest comes from flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that is used to manufacture gumboots and shoe soles.

The agricultural sector consumes 13% of South Africa’s plastic recyclate. This material is used to produce irrigation pipes, feeding troughs, grain covers, fencing poles and numerous other useful products. The building and construction industry buys 11% of plastic recyclate. These materials are used to manufacture plumbing pipes, plastic fittings, conduit and plasticised floor tiles. Recycled beverage bottles are used for geotextiles and roof insulation.

End-markets that consume less than 10% of recyclate

Rigid packaging consumes 9% of plastic recyclate in South Africa. These products include plastic crates, buckets, pallets, boxes and beverage bottles made from recyclate. A large volume of rPET is also used to manufacture sheeting for thermoformed punnets and trays. rPET is the only recycled material that can, with specialised recycling equipment, be used in food-contact applications.

Recycled polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS) plastics are used to create décor and furniture; accounting for just under 8% of recyclate in South Africa. Recycled PP is used to manufacture products such as chairs, furniture feet, end-caps and plastic furniture components. Recycled PS is used to make picture frames, skirting and bumper rails. A mixture of these recycled plastics can be used to produce wood composite planks for flooring and outdoor furniture and decking. 

The smaller end-market sectors for plastic recyclate include houseware (6%), mining and engineering (4%) and electronic cables and components (3%). South Africa also exports just under 6% of its recyclate to members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and select Asian countries such as China and India.

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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 recycling: South Africa versus Europe

South Africa’s latest recycling statistics have been released and the country is doing well. We have some of the highest plastic recycling rates in the world. The industry provides income opportunities for just under 60 000 South Africans, many of which are informal collectors and recyclers.

How does the local recycling sector fare against other countries? South Africa’s mechanical plastic recycling statistics show that we are better off than Europe. In 2018, South Africa achieved a 46.3% input plastics recycling rate by converting 352 000 tonnes of plastic refuse into raw materials. In the same year, Europe managed a 31.1% plastics recycling rate. South Africa recycles 15.2% more of its post-consumer plastic waste than Europe.

This trend has been visible over the past decade. In 2017, the domestic plastic consumption in Europe was 51.2 million tonnes. Of this volume, 27.1 million tonnes were post-consumer plastic waste that was collected for recycling. This represented an 11% increase over the past 10 years. Over the same period of time, South Africa has grown its recycling tonnages by 64%.

Since 2015, South Africa started to report on input figures to align with international reporting methods. This has allowed Plastics SA to more accurately compare the statistics of South African recycling to those of the rest of the world. The statistics above are all for input recycling rates.

Different views on recycling

South Africa and Europe have differing views and philosophies when it comes to recycling. The South African recycling industry is based on economic principles, whereas in Europe, recycling is based on environmental principles. We recycle because it is a valuable industry that creates jobs and supports tens of thousands of families. Europeans recycle because it is good for the environment.

In South Africa, recycling needs to be a profitable venture for it to be viable; in Europe, it is the right thing to do for the planet. Only 64% of households in South Africa have access to formal waste management services. There are no landfill restrictions on recyclable waste. Europe regulates and restricts certain recyclables from entering landfills.

Despite these differences, South Africa still manages to recycle a larger proportion of its plastic waste than Europe does. Besides PET recyclers, South African facilities manually sort the waste by hand. European facilities use infrared spectrometers to sort their recyclables from non-recyclable waste. This means that South Africa can recycle certain products that Europe cannot, such as black plastics and thin packaging films.

South Africa’s plastics recycling rates have shown rapid and continuous improvement over the past decade. We have become a world-leader in mechanical plastics recycling. As the volumes of waste grow every year, so too will the volume of recyclable refuse. This means that the plastics recycling industry will go from strength to strength.

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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.