Become a part of the circular economy: reuse, recycle, recover!

A circular economy is a new way of looking at product life cycles and how we consume raw materials. The linear model of consumption that we have used for centuries (take, make, use, dispose) is not sustainable. It requires us to use valuable raw materials and natural resources, which has negative effects on the planet and the climate.

A circular economy stems around the idea that we can feed waste back into the supply chain – essentially reusing and recycling our refuse to create valuable products that can be resold. This reduce, reuse, recycle model of consumption is far more sustainable and better suited to products like plastic and recyclable materials.

As society becomes more aware of its impact on the planet, people are finding more innovative ways to reuse their waste and retain its value, rather than letting it sit in a landfill. Plastics are a prime example of valuable recyclable materials that often get dumped in waste management facilities.

We need to embrace a circular economy

A circular economy will only work if there is input from all sectors of society. The government needs to work alongside businesses, communities and individuals. Every South African will need to embrace recycling and actively participate in sustainable waste disposal practices in order for a circular economy to thrive.

Public education and raising awareness of the importance of recycling is just one step to improving recycling rates. The plastics industry is also playing its part by working to improve the recyclability of its products.

The future of plastics is more sustainable

The industry is researching alternative ways to make plastics, such as creating products from plant-based polymers. This will allow the plastics to break down and decompose if left in the environment. The future of the plastics industry revolves around sustainability and the circularity of the products’ life cycles.

A factor that influences the recyclability of plastic is its colour. Black plastic can be difficult to recycle because the infrared scanning sensors at recycling facilities cannot detect the black pigment. Luckily, many of South Africa’s recycling centres use manual labour to sort plastic waste so the black plastic is not a major problem.

Recycling facilities can be upgraded

Although plastics are perfectly suited to a circular economy, the recycling infrastructure in South Africa will need to be upgraded if this system is to become a reality. Our waste management facilities will play a vital role in turning plastic waste into high-quality, reusable products that can be fed back into the supply chain.

The national government can support these facilities and invest in the upgrades in order to establish a circular economy in South Africa. This will not only help recyclers to increase their handling capacities but will also allow them to improve the quality of their output products. Private companies can also help to provide funding for the support of our recycling network.

A circular economy is not a farfetched idea, nor is it unattainable. By embracing recycling, improving the recyclability of plastic products and investing in waste management facilities, South Africa could benefit from a sustainable economy. By reusing plastic waste and turning it into saleable products, the country could benefit from a cleaner environment and retain the value of plastic at the same time.


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.

All About Plastics… What is PE-HD?

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 second polymer used for plastic packaging is high-density polyethylene (PE-HD or HDPE).

What is PE-HD?

PE-HD 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 widely recycled in South Africa and has some of the highest recycling rates. Its strength and durability make it ideal for products and packaging that need to withstand wear and tear.

PE-HD was the third-most recycled polymer in South Africa during the last financial year. Over 63 000 tonnes of PE-HD were processed in South African recycling facilities in 2018 alone. This plastic is in high demand by recyclers as it is used to manufacture recycled carrier bags for supermarkets and stores around the country.

Benefits of PE-HD packaging

PE-HD has numerous unique characteristics that make it a valuable packaging material. It differs from normal polyethylene because it has a higher molecular weight which makes it heavier per volume – denser than conventional polyethylene. All polyethylene polymers have a whitish colour and are semi-crystalline, but PE-HD is more rigid and durable.

It is ideal for manufacturing thermoformed plastic moulds, just as milk bottles, buckets and helmets. PE-HD is very resistant to high temperatures; it does not melt easily. This makes it ideal for containers that carry hot liquids, such as kettles and pipelines. This polymer also has extreme cut and wear resistance, making it one of the most durable packaging plastics available.

PE-HD is highly resistant to chemicals, too. It is non-toxic and non-reactive, so it can be used in the food and beverage industry to store produce. This polymer has many uses, from packaging and agriculture to construction and homeware. These characteristics and benefits make PE-HD one of the most valuable plastic packaging materials in the world.


For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Plastics Industry shows its support for waste pickers during Lockdown

Johannesburg, April 20, 2020.  South Africa has close to 60 000 waste pickers who play a substantial role in the country’s waste management industry. As part of the country’s informal waste sector, they help recover recyclables from household waste streams, as well as waste materials sent to landfill sites. With the country in a national lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, these waste reclaimers suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves unable to put food on the table due to the fact that economic activity was limited to essential food and health products or services only.


“It became clear that South Africa is not only facing a global health pandemic, but increasingly also the possibility of a humanitarian crisis as these waste reclaimers are no longer allowed to work and earn a living,” says Anton Hanekom, Executive Director of Plastics|SA – the umbrella body representing all sectors of the South African plastics industry – including polymer producers and importers, converters, machine suppliers, fabricators and recyclers.


Despite the fact that many role-players in the plastics industry are suffering financial losses during this time as they had to either close down or greatly reduce their operations, Plastics|SA, the plastics PROs, the other packaging PROs and Packaging SA rallied together to donate funds when the request was made by Packaging SA. Working in close partnership with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) and in support of the members of the two associations representing the waste pickers/reclaimers, i.e. the South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA), African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO), a total amount of R785, 000.00 was collected within a matter of days. These funds will now be used to purchase electronic food vouchers that will be sent to the collectors who are on the DEFF database via cellphones and can be redeemed at major supermarket retailers.


“We felt deeply affected by the dire and uncertain circumstances these waste reclaimers, who play an important role in the waste management industry, were facing. Because they are not incorporated into the country’s formal waste economy, they tend to lead a hand-to-mouth existence, which means that their income and thus food supply is directly linked to the amount of recyclables they collect on a daily basis, which completely ceased during the period of lockdown ,” says Mandy Naudé of Polyco.


Cheri Scholtz of PETCO highlighted the important role reclaimers play in the recovery of PET bottles and other recyclables in South Africa for reprocessing, and in the process, a lifeline for themselves as reclaimers are paid on a daily basis for the product they deliver to buy-back centres and reprocessors. “In the current situation, recycling is not an essential service and therefore the loss of access to collection has created great hardship for reclaimers,” she stressed.

“Waste pickers make valuable resources available for reintroduction into the economy, while saving landfill airspace. In some instances, these informal waste reclaimers are the only people who recover recyclables in municipalities that do not have a two-bin collection system for separation at source. We have a responsibility to support them in these trying times, they are in desperate need to feed their families,” says Adri Spangenberg, CEO of the Polystyrene Association of SA and the Southern African Vinyls Association (SAVA).

The South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO) said that the collection of plastics for recycling is a lifeline for many informal waste reclaimers. “At a time when this very livelihood is threatened (because of the lockdown situation) we consider it the least we can do to ensure our collectors and their families have food on the table,” said Johann Conradie, Chairman of SAPRO.

“Aside from supporting sustainable livelihoods, these informal waste reclaimers provide plastic feedstock to our buyback centres and recycling plants. They form the backbone of our recycling economy in South Africa and enable us to achieve the fantastic recycling rates we do!” he added.

“The current COVID-19 crisis has left no sector or industry untouched. Despite facing their own financial and operational hardships, I commend our PROs, every member and individual company who stepped up to the plate without a moment’s hesitation. Irrespective of the amount, every donation made to the waste pickers’ fund or who answered our call to donate to the Solidarity Fund, has helped to make a difference in somebody’s life. Helping one person might not have changed the whole world, but it changed the world for one person.


From the plastics industry’s side, we will do our best to offer them our on-going support during this difficult time in recognition of the important work they do. There is no certainty when the lockdown will end, and we therefore challenge everybody involved in the waste management sector to rally with us and to continue making tax deductible financial contributions to lighten the burden of the waste pickers. Once the lockdown restrictions ease, we will do everything in our power to get the recycling industry operating at full capacity as quickly as possible,” Anton concludes.


Donations can be made into the following bank account:

PAMDEV NPC (t/a Fibre Circle)
Account number: 250791749
Standard Bank | Branch code 005726 | Hillcrest

Reference: Company Name – Food voucher


Companies can request a tax certificate by emailing their details and proof of payment to

[i] According to the 2018 Plastics Recycling Survey published by Plastics|SA

Polystyrene successes in South Africa

Polystyrene (PS) is the sixth most widely recycled polymer in South Africa. This plastic is lightweight and durable.  It is most commonly used in the food and restaurant industry. In fact, just over 5500 tonnes of PS was recycled in South Africa last year. Polystyrene is one of the most widely-used polymers for food storage and takeaway containers, 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, PS packaging was the sixth highest polymer in terms of volume processed. Most of the PS plastic waste are fruit and vegetable punnets, meat punnets, takeaway cups and plastic cutlery. These materials are recycled into seedling trays, toys, hair combs and lightweight cement blocks for the building industry.


PS recycling is a successful industry

PS waste is a fairly common material processed at South African recyclers because it is readily available due to its popularity in various industries. PS is popular in retail applications, such as clear food containers, as well as in the food and drinks sector. It also has many uses in the construction industry as expanded polystyrene is a perfect insulator and lightweight building material.


The end-markets for clear containers and expanded packaging polymers, such as PS, are growing steadily year-on-year. The biggest end-market for recycled PS is plastic furniture, followed by domestic houseware. A small portion of recycled PS is sold to the construction sector, although this is a rapidly-growing end-market for this type of recyclate.


PS has a number of beneficial properties

PS is a unique combination of durability, economic viability and environmental performance. It has a low carbon footprint and uses very little energy to manufacture and recycle. One of the main advantages of expanded polystyrene is its resistance to heat, making it ideal for use as coffee cups, food containers and cutlery. PS is non-toxic and non-reactive, which makes it perfect for food contact applications and to prolong the shelf life of edible products.


High-impact PS is transparent and durable, which is why it is commonly used for fruit punnets and CD cases. It shows off the product contained within, while also protecting it during transport and sale. This type of PS is also used to make retail coat hangers, laboratory ware, printers and keyboards, as well as computer and television housings.


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.

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.


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.