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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.

PlasticFreeJuly and what it means to Plastics SA

Plastics SA and the entire industry supports a world that is free from plastic waste. This is the premise behind #PlasticFreeJuly – a global campaign that aims to raise awareness of single-use plastics and the problem of excessive plastic waste in the environment. For the past 25 years, Plastics SA has encouraged reuse, recycling and proper disposal methods for plastic waste.

The fact is that plastics are a valuable commodity. It would be impossible to live a normal life without them. We use plastics every day, whether consciously or unconsciously. “Plastic is an integral part of our modern lifestyle. Strong and versatile, plastic exists because we want convenience at a low price,” says Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.

“It keeps our food fresh, ensures food safety, gives us tamper-proof medications and the list continues. If we were to remove it from our lives, we would have to get rid of almost everything we wear, live in, or work with. The challenge lies in preventing plastic from ending up in the environment after it has been used, and making sure that it is properly discarded so that it can be recycled into a multitude of different new products,” he explains.

The plastic manufacturing industry and its stakeholders do not like to see plastic waste in our rivers, oceans and public spaces – especially during #PlasticFreeJuly. “Our message has always been – and will continue to be – that plastics are too valuable to waste. We have been working relentlessly to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution as part of our drive to see a world without plastic waste,” says Hanekom.

Plastic production and environmental protection can work together

The production of plastic products and the need to protect the environment from pollution can both work at the same time. One does not need to mean the demise of the other. Over 60 000 South Africans are employed in the plastics industry, making it a vital sector of the economy. The country currently has some of the highest plastics recycling rates in the world.

“During 2018, South Africa converted more than 1.8 million tonnes of polymer into plastic products. During the same year, recycled plastic waste tonnages increased by 12.2% – giving South Africa a collection rate of 46.3% and making us a world leader in mechanical recycling,” explains Hanekom.

Environmental protection starts with proper waste disposal methods, which is our core message this #PlasticFreeJuly. Littering and illegal dumping are some of the biggest causes of plastic waste in the environment. “We could start by improving waste infrastructure so that more waste is recovered and prevented from entering the environment,” he suggests.

Plastic products should be reused as much as possible

Plastics SA is an advocate for reusing plastic products. The majority of food packaging, containers, beverage cups, and clamshells are sturdy enough to be reused multiple times. Even so-called single-use plastics such as shopping bags and straws should be kept and reused. South African shopping bags are regulated and manufactured to a thickness of 24-microns – almost double the thickness of plastic bags in most foreign countries. 

This means that these ‘single-use’ products are strong enough to be reused several times, and cost a fraction of the price of cotton alternatives. To add to this, plastic shopping bags are fully recyclable. “To date, the fillers in plastic carrier bags have been removed, producing fully recyclable plastic bags. In some cases, 100 % certified recycled plastic material is used, making them more recyclable and creating a win-win situation for the environment,” Hanekom explains.

#PlasticFreeJuly should be about sustainability

While being a noble cause, #PlasticFreeJuly should encourage sustainability rather than a boycott of plastic products. Recent research around the negative consequences of banning plastics has been compounding around the globe. One such study published by the University of Plymouth’s International Marine Litter Research Unit found that biodegradable plastics rarely break down in the ocean as intended.

The researchers suggest that labelling these ‘eco-friendly’ products as ‘biodegradable’ is misleading and could actually promote littering. Consumers may dump their biodegradable plastics in the belief that they will break down when this is not often the case.

Similarly, research conducted by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food found that cotton shopping bags need to be reused 7100 times to have the same cumulative environmental impact as conventional plastic shopping bags, which are far cheaper and more energy-efficient to produce. 

#PlasticFreeJuly should, therefore, focus on sustainable practices with plastic products rather than an outright ban. “As waste collection improves, we see improved recovery models and the development of a circular economy. The solution lies in addressing our wasteful model of consumption by changing negligent human behaviour and embracing recycling. All it takes is a little willpower from everybody concerned,” Hanekom concludes.

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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.