The latest plastics recycling figures released by Plastics SA reveal that South Africans are recycling more plastics than ever before


According to Anton Hanekom, Executive Director for Plastics SA, the results of its annual survey into plastics recycling for the period ending December 2016, reveal that there is a growing awareness of recycling and public pressure to recycle—resulting in more post-consumer and post-industrial plastics being made available for reuse.

Growing public pressure to recycle bears fruit

“Last year, 1.144 million tons of recyclable plastic entered the waste stream, of which 41.8% was recycled in South Africa based on input tonnages. This is a year-on-year increase of 5,9%,” Hanekom explained.

During this period, a growing number of organisations and consumer groups became actively involved in upstream collection efforts, resulting in a positive impact on the amount of plastics that were collected and recycled. Recycled tonnages grew by 35 % since 2011.

Plastics industry takes strain

“The increase in recycling that was recorded was not as a result of increased plastic products that entered the market. In fact, 1.518 million tons of virgin polymer was converted into products in South Africa during this period—a mere 1.9 % increase compared to 2015,” Hanekom said.

He added that plastics manufacturing and recycling industries in South Africa and around the world have been taking strain over the past two years and that more end-markets needed to be developed as a matter of urgency to ensure take-off for recycled materials.

The way forward

South Africa currently only makes use of mechanical recycling, as no other commercial facilities currently exist for alternative plastics recycling. Compared to Europe’s mechanical recycling rate of 29.7 %, South Africa can indeed be proud of its recycling rate of 41.8 % for all plastics.

“We cannot afford to rest on our laurels or ease up on our recycling efforts. Not only are brand owners and international organisations under increasing pressure to meet their sustainability targets, but plastics recycling also forms an integral part of the circular economy”, Hanekom says.

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