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Are bioplastics the next big thing for packaging?

Bioplastics, not to be confused with biodegradable plastics, are a relatively new field within the South African plastics industry. There are many types of bioplastic that can fulfill different applications and uses. It is important to remember that the term “bioplastics” does not necessarily mean biodegradable or compostable. 

 

Bio-based plastics are not always biodegradable and biodegradable plastics are not always bio-based – although in many cases, they are. Bioplastics simply mean that the main source of raw material is natural and plant-based. They are not made from fossil fuels and oil, which means that bioplastics have the potential to be carbon-neutral materials.

 

Can bioplastics solve the problem of litter?

 

While the use of bioplastics won’t actually solve the problem of littering, they are better for the environment should they be discarded irresponsibly. Every single human has a responsibility to avoid littering and illegally dumping their waste. Instead, waste should always be placed in a refuse bin or in a recycling bin.

 

Many bioplastic products are biodegradable. If these items are dumped in the environment and if oxygen is present, they can be decomposed with microorganisms without producing harmful byproducts during the decomposition process. If no oxygen is present, then the microorganisms will produce methane gas.

 

The process of biodegradation often requires certain environmental conditions to be present; the right temperature, presence of oxygen and microorganisms, enough humidity, etc. Bioplastics and biodegradability should never be an excuse to litter.

 

It is important that people remain conscious of the impact of their waste on the environment. No matter what type of waste material – whether it is paper, glass, metal or plastic – responsible waste disposal is the first step in removing litter and pollution from the environment.

 

Can bioplastics be recycled?

 

Recycling in South Africa and around the world requires different plastic polymers to be separated from one another. Bioplastics will also have to be separated from the waste stream and recycled with their conventional counterparts. For example, bio-based PET bottles can be recycled with oil-based PET plastic.

 

The only snag comes with biodegradable and compostable plastics. There is currently no separate recycling stream for post-consumer biodegradable or compostable plastics in South Africa. Only the bio-based conventional materials such as bio-PET and bio-PE-HD can be processed currently. There is still much research and development that needs to be done before bioplastics become a popular packaging material.

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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.

Keeping our environment clean is a collective responsibility

As the global population increases rapidly, societies around the world need to come up with more efficient solutions to controlling waste. Excess litter and refuse pose a serious threat to the environment. Illegal dumping and littering are two of the major contributors to pollution in our rivers, oceans, public spaces and countryside. Keeping our environment clean is a collective responsibility that we all share.

Every citizen has a role to play in protecting the environment from pollution. We need to eradicate litter and avoid irresponsible waste disposal practices immediately. There is no excuse for plastic waste in the environment – it should always be recycled and thrown away in a responsible manner. Make a point of finding out more about what can and can’t be recycled, and start separating at home. Plastic is a valuable resource that is too important to simply dump and never use again.

We need to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste wherever possible. This will keep litter out of the environment. The South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is concerned about the amount of pollution in our rivers, dams and oceans. Every South African needs to take responsibility for their waste and disposal habits.

Pollution threatens our food security

The rivers, oceans and groundwater in South Africa are not the only environmental features that are threatened by excess waste and pollution. Our farmland and soils are also at risk. Researchers believe that 61% of South Africa’s arable land has been degraded due to pollution. Food security is already a concern for South Africa as the agricultural sector works hard to keep up with the ever-increasing food demands of our growing population.

Clean farmlands and healthy soils are vital for a thriving society. The beauty of nature is that it can self-heal if it is kept free from pollution and contaminants. Our soils will slowly regenerate nutrients if we avoid illegal dumping of chemical waste and littering of household refuse. South Africa’s wetlands are an example of a natural filter that can provide a sustainable source of clean groundwater, yet these are often used as illegal dumping grounds for a variety of waste materials.

What does environmental rehabilitation cost?

Keeping our environment clean and healthy is inexpensive, but rehabilitating pollution affected areas will cost the taxpayer millions. The Water Research Commission (WRC) has been investigating the cost of environmental rehabilitation. Their research shows that cleaning and restoring a 125-hectare (1.25 square kilometre) wetland costs around R1.7-million.

A wetland of this area can purify enough water to save the country R130-million in purification costs. This can benefit society and businesses, such as mines, that require pure water for their survival. The savings far outweigh the costs of rehabilitation, but we should not let our natural spaces be contaminated in the first place.

Waste eradication is a collective responsibility that needs to be prioritised. Government, businesses and citizens can work together to keep our environment free from litter and pollution. These are some of the leading threats to the South African environment at the moment. A healthy environment will benefit society in infinite ways, so we all need to play our part in responsible waste disposal. Find out more about how you can make a difference by visiting Cleanupandrecycle.co.za 

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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.

The future of plastic waste management in South Africa

South Africa has a strong and resilient plastics recycling industry. Issues of waste collection and plastic recycling rates are hot topics at the moment – evoking emotional responses from various sectors of society. The fact is that a normal life would not be possible without plastics but the responsible and ethical disposal of these products is an issue in most countries around the world.

The future of plastic waste management lies in environmental protection, citizen education and participation from all sectors of society. Plastics are far too valuable to simply throw away. They need to be reused, recycled and fed back into a circular economy. This will ensure that the value of plastics is retained and sustainable economic growth can be unlocked.

“Recyclables are a valuable resource and should be removed from the solid waste stream before reaching landfill,” says Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom. “All stakeholders, including producers, manufacturers, brand owners, consumers, waste management companies and recyclers – have to work together to make plastics the material of choice, to manufacture locally, process it efficiently and to manage the end-of-life products in the most efficient manner that will benefit the consumer, the industry and the planet,” he explains.

The following steps will pave the way for the future of plastic waste management in South Africa:

1. Develop waste management infrastructure

Plastics need to be collected and removed from the environment. The existing waste collection infrastructure needs to be improved in order to boost recycling collection, sorting and processing. Plastics need to be separated from non-recyclables at the source – in the homes of citizens, at restaurants, stores, hotels and businesses. Almost 34% of South Africans do not have access to any waste management services, so they need to be better equipped to deal with their waste.

2. Reduce contaminants in the recyclable waste stream

Just separating plastics from non-recyclable waste is not good enough. Often, these plastics are contaminated with food scraps and beverage remnants. This can affect the quality of a batch of recycling. A collaborative effort is required to minimise the contaminants in the incoming waste stream. Citizens can rinse their plastic waste with water – even non-potable greywater will do. Restaurant owners, baristas and retailers can start to improve the cleanliness of their recyclable waste too by rinsing the plastics.

3. Help recyclers sustain their operations

South Africa has around 300 recycling businesses. No matter their size, it is an ongoing struggle for recyclers to keep their businesses profitable with the rising costs of electricity, transport and labour. Many new entrants in the recycling industry are also not legally-compliant, which puts an unnecessary burden on the rest of recyclers. South Africans can support their local recyclers by dropping off their recyclable waste at these facilities instead of leaving it up to their waste management providers – many of which send the waste straight to landfill.

4. Develop alternatives for hard-to-recycle plastics

There are certain types of plastic that are difficult to recycle or are not economically viable to process. Alternative solutions need to be developed by manufacturers and recyclers for these plastics, such as turning them into cement aggregate for building blocks. Alternative methods of plastics waste disposal may also lie in chemical recycling and using waste to create electricity. Manufacturers can also work on making these types of plastic easier to process and more cost-effective to recycle.

The future of effective plastic waste management lies in collaboration between citizens, legislators, waste management companies, the government and plastics manufacturers. While Plastics SA works towards long-term solutions to plastic pollution, infrastructure needs to be improved, educational awareness needs to be implemented and responsible waste disposal needs to be enforced. 

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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.

Citizens can help to improve recycling rates

South Africa boasts some impressive recycling statistics. The country currently recycles more plastic than Europe. In 2018 alone, South Africa converted 352 000 tonnes of plastic waste into valuable raw material – about 67% of all plastic refuse. However, despite being a world-leader in mechanical plastic recycling, there is always room for improvement.

The plastics industry and waste management providers are working hard to ensure that all plastic waste is recycled. Consumers and South African citizens can help us reach our goal of a 70% plastics recycling rate in the next few years. By implementing recycling in the home, citizens can ensure that plastic waste is sent to the recycling facility instead of the landfill.

Recycling in the home will boost recycling rates

By implementing separation at source strategies in the home, more plastic waste will be sent to recycling facilities. Citizens should start to separate their plastic waste from non-recyclables and organic refuse at home. All waste placed in general garbage bins will be sent to a landfill. While some of the recyclable waste is collected and sorted at landfills, a lot of it remains in these facilities.

In addition, consumers should aim to rinse their plastic waste before placing it in the recycling bin. The water used for washing dishes can be used for this – not clean water – as water is also a scarce resource that we should be using sparingly. This will wash away any food and drink remnants that could contaminate the recycling batch. “Basic actions like rinsing, or, in water-scarce areas wiping out a food container before placing it in a bag, reduces contamination,” says Mpact general manager Nicholas Schild.

Cleaner plastics entering the recycling stream will result in a higher-quality recyclate at the end of the process. This means that products made from recycled plastic will be more durable, better quality and more cost-effective to process. “Consumer choice can add to the momentum of recycling and environment-conscious manufacturing practices,” says Schild. 

South African government calls for citizens to help

The South African government has already implemented two mechanisms in order to encourage citizens to reduce litter – the Plastic Bag Regulations and a plastic bag levy. However, these attempts have not curbed the prevalence of illegal dumping and littering.

“There are a whole range of areas where we need to see a behaviour change from our citizens. Single-use plastics are just one example,” says Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy. “The department is currently assessing single-use plastic products—plastic carrier bags, straws, earbuds, crockery and cutlery – and we will be conducting various stakeholder engagements in this regard,” she adds.

“With the proper coordination and consumer action, voluntary change can be a sustainable and cost-effective solution,” says Creecy. The South African plastics industry is looking at innovative ways to encourage citizens to recycle. Plastics are valuable products that make modern life easier and more affordable. Recycling plastics is currently a better solution than banning them, so we urge all South Africans to dispose of their plastic waste in a responsible manner.

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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 and their role in creating a circular economy

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 […]

Pollution is the problem, not plastic

South Africa and many other countries around the world are calling for a ban on plastic products. However, this is not the best solution for the global pollution crisis; a complex problem that requires rational thought and deep-rooted changes in the way society functions.

Banning plastic bags is an emotional reaction to the problem of plastic pollution. The supporters of this ban may have good intentions, but they do not fully understand the impact that this will have on society. The real problem lies with our waste disposal practices, such as illegal dumping and littering.

These are the major causes of plastic pollution in the environment. “To win the war on plastic pollution, every role-player in the plastics industry needs to confront some hard truths. This includes us as the producers of plastics, but it also includes government and consumers,” says Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.

Plastic pollution is the result of poor waste disposal practices

South Africa has some of the highest plastic recycling rates in the world. In 2018, we collected and recycled over 46% of our plastic waste – a 12% increase from the previous year. Our recycling facilities are able to process a vast amount of plastic and keep these products out of landfills, but the industry’s efforts alone cannot win the war on pollution.

Proper disposal of plastic products will go a long way to boost recycling rates and keep these materials out of the environment. Consumers must make the effort to put their plastic refuse in a recycling bin and avoid littering at all costs. The government can also help to improve waste collection infrastructure and recycling facilities.

The funds are already available to the government in the form of the plastic bag levy that was introduced in 2003. It currently stands at 12 cents for every plastic bag sold. By using this levy solely for the development of better recycling facilities and consumer education campaigns, the national government can unlock hundreds of millions of rands.

Plastic is a vital material for modern society

Banning plastics will have severe impacts on modern society. We use them every single day for basic tasks, sometimes without even being aware of it. While imagining a world without plastic pollution may be a novel idea, the fact is that we cannot live without plastic.

If disposed of correctly, plastic can be a more sustainable solution than its ‘environmentally-friendly’ alternatives, such as cotton. A recent study by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food reveals that many of these alternative materials actually have a bigger negative impact on the environment than plastic.

The study suggests that organic cotton shopping bags would need to be reused 7100 times in order to have the same environmental impact as a plastic shopping bag. This is because producing plastic bags is far cheaper, more energy-efficient and results in less carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. If we can curb pollution, we can save the environment and retain our dependence on plastic products for daily living.

“In the coming weeks and months, we, as the plastics industry, will embark on a sustained campaign to persuade government and citizens to join us in the war on plastic pollution. We support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s quest to clean up South Africa, but it can only happen if there is a recycling revolution in this country,” Hanekom exclaims.

“A rational conversation about plastic pollution recognises the positive attributes of plastic and focuses on how to manage plastic waste. To win this fight, we need to build strong collaborative and meaningful partnerships. Government, industry and the consumer need to work together,” concludes Hanekom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yttc36PNtvA

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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.