Plastic recycling

Plastics – Future for Growth

Plastic recycling is the future.

The South African plastics industry needs to become more original and innovative, rather than having a host of small companies making the same product in the market.

Plastics SA Executive Director, Anton Hanekom says the industry should be thinking about how it can diversify and enter a more niche market with original products. He reckons that this will decrease competition and increase innovation.

Hanekom was speaking at the first-ever plastics industry conference held recently at the Nasrec Expo in Johannesburg. The conference was the opportunity for the role players, decision makers and experts in the plastics industry to share ideas on matters relating to the growth of the industry, sustainability, recycling and business prospects. 

The South African plastics industry needs to become more original and innovative, rather than having a host of small companies making the same product in the market.

Hanekom says packaging has come to symbolise the issue of waste in the modern day society. “Looking at the issue of plastics packaging specifically, we know that it ensures hygiene and reduces the risk of product wastage due to contamination, providing a physical barrier between a product and the external environment. Unfortunately, however, such convenience has come at an environmental price and the rise in environmental consciousness in recent decades has brought the issue of packaging firmly under the spotlight”. 

The audience members felt they had a responsibility to design the packaging with effective recycling in mind. A third of the audience felt brand owners also havea responsibility to educate consumers about the recyclability and recycled content of their products.

“It is clear that there is a great need to raise the profile of the plastics industry and the work that is being done by brand owners and converters to ensure that plastics are manufactured in a way that is sustainable and environmentally responsible,” Hanekom says. 

Another hot topic that was discussed by the panel was the issue of bio-plastics and whether or not it had a real role to play as an alternative in the plastic packaging industry. The vast majority of the audience members said bio-plastics were not an option due to the high costs and the negative impact that bio-plastics have on the recycling stream.

Speaking on the issue of plastics and sustainability, Hanekom says plastics represent one of the fastest growing categories of materials used and disposed in the society. “They play a major role in delivering and sustaining the quality, comfort and safety of modern lifestyles.

The impressive ratio of cost to performance also means that people of all income groups can enjoy these benefits. However, meeting the needs of society is not just about today. Future generations also have the right to material and other benefits.”

Discussing the problems surrounding the issue of plastics waste disposal, 61% of the audience members responded that they felt the answer lay with improved waste management. While 36% of the audience felt that there should be more recycling initiatives by local municipalities.