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Growth in plastics recycling despite the odds

Online since 5.11.2015 • Filed under Advertorial • From Issue 16 page(s) 200
Growth in plastics recycling despite the odds

Anton Hanekom, executive director of Plastics|SA, the mouthpiece of the local plastics industry, explains that the  industry has shown encouraging signs of growth, both in terms of the amount of plastics diverted from landfill and in job creation.

‘The South African plastics industry is in the throes of one of the most challenging periods in its history. Not only are we facing increased electricity, transport and raw material costs on the local front, but the sharp increase in imports also poses a threat to our progress,’ Hanekom points out. Each year the state of plastics recycling in SA is surveyed on behalf of Plastics|SA by plastics recycling guru, Annabe Pretorius of Plastix 911. ‘The information we obtain for our survey is received from one-on-one interviews held with recyclers around the country, and provides valuable data to our members, government and the wider community regarding the state of the plastics recycling industry, imports, local processing and exports for reprocessing,’ Hanekom explains. ‘It gives us a clear indication of the flow of plastics products in South Africa, the state of the plastics recycling industry and the recyclate markets, and is therefore a valuable tool for promotion, knowledge of the industry and forward planning, policy development and assisting in setting targets for end-of-life solutions.’ The recently released 2014 results reveal that a total of 1.4-million tons of plastics from domestic production and imported materials were converted in South Africa in 2014. ‘Although this is the same as the total reported for 2013, the conversion rates for certain types of plastics have increased and others decreased in tonnages because of the impact of lightweighting plastics packaging, which had a marked increase on South Africa’s consumption rate. Early in 2014, the South African plastics industry set itself a target of diverting plastic from the country’s landfill sites by the year 2030 by adopting a new sustainability objective entitled, ‘Zero plastics to landfill by 2030’. In addition to the 1.4-million tons of plastics from domestic production and imported materials that was converted in 2014, the impact and influence that this plan can be seen from the 2013 to 2014 results:

• 315 600 tons of plastics (22.5%) were diverted from landfill in 2014. This is an increase of 9 % from 2013.

• Of the 315 600 tons of plastics diverted from landfill, 284 520 tons (90.2%) were mechanically recycled in South Africa and 31 087 tons (9.8%) were exported for recycling elsewhere. The proportion of plastics recycled in South Africa has decreased from 97.6% in 2009 to 90.2% in 2014. The tonnages exported from South Africa are causing some concerns among the domestic plastics recyclers.

• Post-consumer materials still provide the most recyclables, and 62.7% of all materials recycled originated from post-consumer sources. A further 17.2% originated from post-industrial sources.

• The formal employment provided by plastics recycling has increased by 34% to 6 037 workers. Informal employment has increased to 47 420, bringing the total number of jobs sustained through plastics recycling to 53 457 (an increase of 11.4% since 2013).

• The majority of plastics that were recycled in South Africa continue to be used locally to manufacture new products, mainly films (packaging, building and industrial) and pipes.


Anton Hanekom

T +27 11 314 4021


Issue 16

Issue 16

November 2015

This article was featured on page 200 of
To Build Magazine Issue 16.

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