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Survey says: South African plastics recyclers faced recyclate oversupply in 2016

Worker handling plastics at Polyco site near Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa – Last year, 1.144 million tons of recyclable plastic entered the waste stream in South Africa, of which 41.8% was recycled, so reveals the latest survey conducted by trade association Plastics SA. ‘This is a year-on-year increase of 5.9%,’ says the company’s executive director Anton Hanekom.

The largest market (20%) for recyclate was for flexible packaging, with both low and high density polyethylene turned into shopping bags in 2016.

The second biggest market (18%) was the market for clothing and footwear where products such as recycled PET were turned into fibre applications and flexible PVC for shoe soles and gumboots.

Recycled rigid packaging made up 15% of the market; plastics were recycled into items such as drums and buckets made from recycled high density polyethylene and polypropylene as well as recycled PET for thermoformed sheet applications.

Linear low-density polyethylene recyclate was used for irrigation pipes for the agricultural sector (5%) and the furniture sector (5%) mostly made use of polypropylene for injection moulded chairs and tables and polystyrene for picture frames.

Towards the end of 2016, some 204 active recyclers were mechanically reprocessing post-consumer plastics. They provided formal, permanent employment for 6140 workers as well as providing informal employment for 51 500 waste pickers and collectors.

‘For the first time in many years, recyclers had an oversupply of recyclate in 2016,’ so Plastics SA concludes. ‘It is clear that the survival of the industry depends on creating more demand for recycled materials in order to prevent material bottlenecks.’

The association observes that a growing number of organisations and consumer groups became ‘actively involved’ in upstream collection efforts all throughout 2016.

The increase in the amount of plastics that were collected and recycled has been witnessed for years; recycled tonnages grew by 35% since 2011.

The entire survey can be downloaded at: www.plasticsinfo.co.za

 

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