Posts

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.

Join the Million Plus recycling initiative

Polyco, a South African not-for-profit organisation that aims to reduce the amount of polyolefin waste in landfills, has launched a new recycling initiative called Million Plus. This recycling revolution encourages South Africans to commit to using plastic responsibly by keeping used packaging out of the environment and landfills. Their main goal is to get South Africans to recycle their packaging waste.

“It is unapologetically an initiative to change the country’s behaviour and get more South Africans recycling their plastic packaging,” reads the initiative’s manifesto. Million Plus aims to get over one million citizens to take the pledge on the website and add their names to the list of other committed recyclers. 

The initiative aims to create a recycling revolution. Each signatory is encouraged to recruit others and spread the word about the importance of recycling. By doing so, recycling will become the norm and a new reality whereby the South African environment is protected from litter and the recycling industry is further supported for the good of the national economy.

What does a Million Plus recycler do?

All committed recyclers should employ the following daily practices and habits:

  1. Recycle all the plastic packaging that you buy, instead of discarding it in a general waste bin.
  2. Encourage friends, family and colleagues to recycle.
  3. Tell Polyco how your recycling is collected (or where you drop off your recycling) so that they can create an accurate database of local recycling companies for the benefit of others.

Recycling can make the difference

South Africa has a well-established recycling industry that provides income for around 60 000 South Africans and helps to keep valuable materials out of the environment and in circulation. Recycling is an easy change to make in the home; simply separating waste into different materials can make a big difference to the environment and the economy.

Every South African can make a difference that has far-reaching benefits. If one million people commit to this cause and start recycling their waste at home, then South Africa will be a cleaner and more sustainable place in which to live. Join the recycling revolution by signing up on the Million Plus website and start spreading the word about the importance of recycling.

Visit millionplusrecyclers.co.za for more information.

___

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 PS packaging is recycled in South Africa

Polystyrene (PS) is a highly popular packaging polymer, not just in South Africa but around the world, too. It is used to manufacture a variety of products, from fruit punnets and supermarket food trays to disposable coffee cups and plastic cutlery. PS is fairly easy to recycle and has many beneficial uses – including the manufacture of seedling trays, picture frames and even lightweight building blocks for the construction industry.

Most of the plastics used for packaging applications are mechanically recycled in South Africa. These materials are often picked, sorted and washed by hand before being processed. PS follows a similar process when it is sent to a recycling facility to be turned into recyclate. The plastic waste is granulated and extruded before being sold back to plastics manufacturers.

How PS packaging is recycled

Firstly, discarded PS packaging is collected by waste management companies and informal waste pickers working at local landfills. They source and collect the waste before baling them for transport. These bales of plastic waste are then taken to recycling facilities where the process begins. 

The plastic bundles are undone and the waste materials are separated by polymer type and grade. Due to the many food contact applications of PS packaging, these materials will have various qualities and degrees of cleanliness. The PS waste is first cleaned to remove any dirt and food contaminants. PS should be scraped clean or rinsed in used dishwashing water. South African polystyrene recyclers that manufacture lightweight bricks and screeds don’t require the materials to be pristine. However, the cleaner the waste, the better.

The PS waste is then shredded into small bits. These particles are then fed into a large heated extruder which melts the plastic under pressure and extrudes it into ingots. These bars of PS polymer are then granulated or cut into pellets and packed for sale to plastics manufacturers. Recycled PS is used to manufacture numerous products, such as clothes hangers, picture frames, cornices, hair combs and plastic rulers.

PS can be reused in the home

This polymer is extremely lightweight and semi-flexible. Consumers should always aim to reuse their PS takeaway containers and sealable fruit punnets. Hamburger clamshells or grape punnets are ideal for storing leftover food in the fridge. Polystyrene cups can also be washed and reused for children’s parties where kids may drop cups on the floor by mistake. Plastic cutlery should always be cleaned and reused as it is ideal for picnics and large outdoor gatherings.

The flexibility, lightweight and non-toxicity of this polymer lends itself to reuse in the home, making PS a highly valuable packaging polymer. By reusing these products, consumers can save a lot of money. If discarding PS is necessary, at least it can be recycled, which benefits the local economy and the environment.

___

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 PVC packaging is recycled in South Africa

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is one of the most common polymers used by plastics manufacturers in South Africa. It is used to manufacture irrigation pipes, medicine bottles, gumboots and so much more. However, PVC is more difficult to recycle than PET due to the chlorine content of the polymer.

Processing PVC plastics requires special machinery. Many small-scale recyclers in South Africa cannot process PVC, so plastics manufacturers have started to replace PVC products with PET. The one advantage of PVC is that it contains less carbon content than other thermoplastics.

PVC can be recycled up to eight times before becoming too brittle, depending on the application and the state of the plastic. It is also more energy-efficient to manufacture and process than other types of plastic. These characteristics make PVC a valuable polymer, especially when recycled properly.

Two methods of recycling PVC

There are two ways to recycle PVC; mechanical recycling by grinding it into small pellets which are then melted and remoulded into new products, or feedstock recycling where chemical processes break down the polymer into its basic chemical components. Both of these methods are used in South Africa but the mechanical recycling method is more common.

Unlike feedstock (chemical) recycling, mechanical recycling keeps the original composition of the PVC waste. This poses a problem because many PVC products contain additives and additional chemicals to make them rigid or flexible. For example, flexible PVC contains added plasticizers to increase the fluidity of the product. 

Even products used for similar applications may contain different amounts of additives, which makes mechanical recycling more difficult. PVC recyclate requires very specific compositions for different applications. In order to produce a high-quality recyclate, the PVC waste should be separated into uniform compositions before being mechanically processed.

This is where feedstock recycling has its advantages. By breaking down the recyclate into its basic chemical components, a mix of unsorted PVC products can be processed at the same time. However, feedstock recycling is more expensive than mechanical processing and the end-market for the recovered chemicals is not as big. This gives recyclers fewer incentives to use chemical methods to process PVC waste.

Post-consumer vs post-industrial PVC waste

The PVC waste that comes from post-consumer sources is often mixed in type and quality. On the other hand, PVC waste from post-industrial sources (factories) is often the same. This means that it is far easier to mechanically recycle the waste from post-industrial sources as it does not need to be sorted first. Post-consumer sources of waste require careful separation before being mechanically processed.

Post-industrial waste is relatively pure as it comes straight from the factories that produce one type of product (or products with similar chemical compositions). This waste is easy to collect and recycle since it comes directly from the source or the manufacturer and the quality is high. Post-consumer waste contains mixed materials that were used for various applications and the quality of the waste is often degraded.

PVC products are extremely durable – sometimes with a lifespan of over 50 years. The strength of this polymer lends itself to a lifetime of reuse, making PVC a valuable plastic. By reusing and recycling these products, we can maximise their usefulness while minimising their environmental impact.

___

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.

PVC plastic successes in South Africa

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the fifth most-widely recycled polymer in South Africa. This plastic is strong, durable and can come in three forms – rigid, flexible and liquid. PVC is considered to be one of the most versatile thermoplastics and it is recyclable in South Africa. It can be recycled into numerous products, making it a valuable polymer for the economy.

South Africa has some of the highest recycling rates in the world – just under 21 000 tonnes of PVC plastic was recycled in 2018 alone. Of this volume, most of the PVC plastic came from gumboots, cables, hosepipes, plumbing pipes, conduit and gutters. These materials are mainly recycled into shoe soles, car mats and plastic speed humps.

PVC plastic recycling is a successful industry

PVC recyclate is currently in high demand due to its various applications and low energy requirements. This plastic is inherently flame-resistant and is impermeable to liquids. PVC is cost-effective to manufacture and, because of its versatility, it is an abundant plastic polymer. It is widely used in the construction, irrigation, medical, mining and motoring industry as a result of these properties.

PVC can also be recycled into various rigid, flexible and liquid products, including rubber shoes, flooring, trays, mats, insulation, raincoats and many more. The clothing and footwear industry purchases the majority portion of PVC recyclate, followed by the construction and agriculture sectors. This polymer has many uses as a recycled material in various industries in South Africa.

PVC has a number of beneficial properties

PVC is a popular plastic material because of its advantageous properties. During the manufacturing process, chlorine is obtained from ordinary salt and is chemically combined with ethylene, which is derived from coal in South Africa. PVC is always compounded with additives to give it a range of properties, such as rigidity, flexibility, fire resistance and liquidity. 

PVC has excellent resistance to wear and tear, making it ideal for products that need to withstand hard usage over many years. It is lightweight, cost-effective and requires little energy to manufacture. PVC is highly valuable in this regard as it supports economic development and the environment, unlike many plastic alternatives. These properties make PVC a popular plastic polymer. It is widely recycled in South Africa thanks to our strong and resilient recycling industry. For more information on South Africa’s vinyls industry, visit SAVinyls.co.za

___

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 PE-HD packaging is recycled in South Africa

High-density polyethylene (PE-HD) is a commonly used packaging polymer in South Africa. It is widely used to manufacture milk bottles, plastic crates, drums, irrigation equipment and cosmetic bottles. PE-HD is easy to recycle and has many beneficial uses – making it the third-most-popular packaging material in the country.

Most of the plastics used for packaging applications are mechanically recycled in South Africa. These materials are often picked, sorted and washed by hand before being processed. PE-HD follows a similar process when it is sent to a recycling facility to be turned into recycled plastic granules.

How PE-HD is recycled

Firstly, discarded PE-HD packaging is collected by waste management companies and informal waste pickers working at landfills. They source and collect the plastic before bailing them into bundles for transport. These bundles of PE-HD waste are then taken to recycling facilities where the process begins. 

The PE-HD bundles are undone and the plastic is separated by grade. Due to the many applications and products made using PE-HD, the waste will have various qualities. The plastic waste is cleaned thoroughly to remove any dirt, debris and contaminants. This makes the PE-HD refuse safe for processing and ensures that the recyclate batch is pure. Any contaminants or dirt could spoil the entire batch and ruin the quality of the end product.

The PE-HD waste is then fed onto a conveyor belt where it is sent to various stations in the recycling facility. The first stop is the granulator that shreds the plastic into smaller particles. These particles are sent to a high-temperature oven that melts them into a sort of resin. This PE-HD resin is extruded and cooled before being chopped into small pellets.

These pellets of PE-HD plastic are sold to manufacturers, who can then use them to create new products. PE-HD is commonly used for blow mould processes, so the pellets are melted into a sheet of soft plastic before being injected into a mould and shaped under pressure. Recycled PE-HD is used to manufacture numerous durable products, such as plastic toys, benches and crates.

PE-HD packaging can be reused in the home

This polymer is highly durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. Consumers should always aim to reuse their PE-HD containers and products before discarding them. Milk bottles can be washed and reused to store water and other liquids. Grocery bags made from PE-HD can be used again and again when visiting the supermarkets. 

Household containers and shampoo bottles can be used to store various products in the home. The strength of this polymer lends itself to a lifetime of reuse, making PE-HD a valuable plastic, especially when it comes to packaging. By reusing these products, consumers can save a lot of money in the long run. If discarding PE-HD is necessary, at least it can be recycled easily and the end products are just as strong and durable.

___

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.

PE-HD plastic packaging successes

High-density polyethylene (PE-HD) is the third most-widely recycled polymer in South Africa. This plastic is strong, scratch-resistant and non-toxic, making it ideal for use in the beverage and packaging industry. PE-HD is an abundant material and is quite easy to recycle in South Africa. It can be turned into numerous recycled products, making it a valuable polymer that can be reused again and again.

South Africa has some of the highest recycling rates in the world – 63 038 tonnes of PE-HD plastic was recycled in 2018 alone. Of this volume, most of the PE-HD plastic came in the form of milk bottles, plastic crates and plastic drums. These materials are mainly recycled into carrier bags for grocery stores and supermarket chains.

PE-HD plastic recycling is a successful industry

PE-HD recyclate is currently in high demand due to its durability. Although recycled PE-HD is not suitable for food contact applications (like the virgin polymer is), there is a great need for the recyclate in the agricultural industry. The main bulk of PE-HD recyclate is used to manufacture irrigation pipes, feeding troughs, fence poles and weather covers for the farming sector.

PE-HD can also be recycled into various flexible packaging products, including bin liners, recycled grocery bags and wood bags. The mining industry also accounts for a large portion of PE-HD recyclate, followed by the rigid packaging and construction sectors. This polymer has a variety of uses as a recycled material in various industries in South Africa.

PE-HD has a number of beneficial properties

PE-HD is an ideal packaging material because of its unique properties. It is produced from the polymerisation of ethylene at high temperatures, making it dense and robust. It is a highly crystalline polymer with strong bonds between molecules. These properties make PE-HD a dense plastic with high strength, high temperature resistance and excellent chemical resistance.

PE-HD has excellent corrosion and scratch resistance, making it ideal for products that need to withstand wear and tear or contain harsh chemicals. It is a lightweight and non-toxic plastic that lends itself to many applications in the packaging industry and a number of other sectors. These properties make PE-HD a popular plastic polymer. It is widely recycled in South Africa thanks to our strong and resilient recycling industry.

___

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 packaging type 2 – PE-HD

Plastics are valuable materials that make modern life possible, especially plastic packaging. These materials keep our goods protected and our food fresh. Plastic packaging even keeps medical equipment sterilised and safe from contamination. Plastics need to be recycled properly in order to maximise their economic value and to minimise their environmental impact.

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.

___

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.

___

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.

Recycling plastic presents income opportunities for South Africans

One of the best motivating forces for recycling plastic waste comes from the income opportunities that it creates. This is why South Africa has such a large sector of informal waste pickers – citizens that collect plastic recyclables from landfills and other waste streams and sell them to recycling companies for a profit. 

Waste management is an important part of society. Recycling waste not only prolongs the lifespan of plastics, but it also unlocks the value of refuse and boosts the economy. As such, a number of municipalities in South Africa are partnering with various organisations to improve waste management in these communities.

Municipal recycling programmes

One such example is Bushbuckridge Municipality in Mpumalanga, which recently partnered with the University of South Africa (UNISA) to launch a recycling programme that will empower local residents. The programme is aimed at improving residents’ knowledge about recycling, formalising income-generating opportunities from recycling plastic waste and minimising environmental pollution caused by litter.

The goal of the partnership was to develop a manageable and affordable solution for recycling in Mpumalanga. “It’s a municipality’s responsibility to address waste management issues within a society,” says Bushbuckridge Municipality waste management manager Levy Mokoena.

“Unfortunately, as a rural municipality, we generate limited revenue – which limits our waste management efforts when it comes to reaching certain parts of our jurisdiction,” he explains. “Our mission, in partnership with UNISA, is to support existing recyclers by making them realise the potential of a clean, healthy environment and opportunities to earn an income,” says Mokoena.

Government support will also help to maximise the income-generating opportunities that exist within the recycling sector. “Many recyclers have given up on their efforts because of the small amounts of money they received, unaware of the great financial potential that recycling offers,” says UNISA associate professor in environmental issues Fani Machete. 

Businesses can play a role in local recycling initiatives

Businesses operating in South Africa can also support a formalised recycling industry. Polyco, a local organisation that focuses on Polyolefin plastics recycling and recovery, has been running a campaign called ‘Packa-Ching’. A recycling truck and trailer parks in designated communities on a weekly basis, where residents can sell their recyclable waste.

Community members can sell their plastic, paper, glass and metal waste to the truck driver. The waste is weighed and the prices for the materials are set according to current market values. Residents are paid into their eWallets without delay. These recyclable materials are loaded into the trailer and taken to local recycling facilities. Packa-Ching is aimed at making recycling more convenient and adding monetary rewards for separating recyclable waste in households.

Another business-led initiative has been started by a multinational brewing and alcoholic beverage company, Distell. The company launched a local recycling project called ‘GreenUp’. Distell partnered with an organisation called Separation at Source (S@S) to launch the project in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

GreenUp aims to establish formalised and effective value chains when it comes to the collection, separation and processing of plastic recyclables in Khayelitsha – home to around 450 000 residents. GreenUp will implement collection points and formal agreements between waste pickers and the buyers of recyclable waste in the area. 

This will help to promote the sustainability of the local recycling sector, a well as to boost the employment opportunities in Khayelitsha. “By partnering with S@S in formalising networks or value chains in Khayelitsha’s waste management efforts, we also aid in combating socio-economic challenges, empowering individuals within this fast-growing community,” says Distell sustainability manager Eric Leong Son.

Recycling is a big industry in South Africa yet the jobs remain largely informal. Officially, the industry supports 7890 formal jobs but it is estimated that around 58 470 South Africans receive an income through the entire recycling supply chain. These income-generating opportunities are significant and they can be boosted with the help of the government and business sector.

___

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.