SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa recycled 344,527 tonnes of plastics during 2021 – representing a 10% increase over the previous year, reveals Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.

According to Hanekom much is still needed to be done to support local recyclers and develop the industry to its full potential, despite the increase.

“In order for recycling to be effective, certain principles must be in place: products must be designed for recycling; the necessary systems must be in place to collect recyclable waste from the solid waste stream as early as possible,” said Hanekom.

“In addition, specifications must be in place for incoming recyclable waste in the sense that standards must be developed and adhered to for the recycling processes and subsequent recyclate; and environmental claims must be substantiated.

“While plastics collection and recycling have improved slightly, we are still not back to pre-Covid year levels recorded in 2019.”

He further explained: “Recyclers, like the rest of the country’s manufacturing sector, were negatively impacted by economic challenges caused by load shedding and rising transportation and energy costs.

“Although still considerably less than virgin polymers, recycling still consumes a lot of energy. To ensure economic quantities, recyclables must also be transported to reprocessing plants.”

The report indicates that South Africa’s plastics manufacturing and recycling industries grew by 4.7% last year, indicating a welcome recovery from the devastation caused by the Covid pandemic.

“This is the total amount of polymers produced locally, net imported polymers and recycled polymers sold locally to converters,” added Hanekom.

“Locally recycled polymer made up 21.7% of virgin consumption – up from 20.6% in 2020. This growth is consistent with the country’s 4.9% growth in GDP during the same period.”

The polymer consumption in South Africa is calculated using both locally produced virgin tonnages and imported/exported polymers as recorded by the South African Revenue Services (Sars).

Plastic recyclers who sell their recyclate into the local market provide data on recycled polymer consumption.

Domestic polymer consumption is limited to polymers that have been locally converted into plastics and semi-finished products.

Hanekom stressed that the 2021 results are satisfactory and in line with our expectations considering the greater context of global events and local developments affecting the industry.

“As an industry, we will continue to work harder, embrace innovation, and aim higher to meet our own and society’s expectations,” concluded Hanekom.

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