In the face of adverse economic conditions, key opportunities for growth still remain for the plastics industry in South Africa, as in the last financial year it managed to contribute about 1.6% to the country’s gross domestic product as well as 14.2% to the manufacturing sector, which is a priority sector for the country’s economy, reported South African plastics industry representative Plastics SA during its annual general meeting last month.
“The plastics recycling industry is showing positive movement and, owing to the increase in the use of waste plastic as an input material in the conversion process, the demand for plastic waste locally has increased,” says Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.
He adds that this is as a result of the pace set by Plastics SA for the recovery, recycling and diversion of plastics from the country’s landfill sites, owing to its ‘Zero Plastics to Landfill by 2030’ vision. As a result, the most recent recycling survey has shown that plastics diverted from landfill increased by 12.8% from 2013.
Moreover, the total plastics tonnage recycled was 20.3% of all plastics manufactured in 2014. Also, 22% of plastics were diverted from landfill, 90.2% was mechanically recycled and 9.8% was exported for recycling elsewhere.
Not only has this achievement been a stepping stone towards the 2030 vision, but Plastics SA notes that it has also contributed towards employment in attempts to address the current 26.4% unemployment rate.
“Our burden at the moment is the importance of continuing to become more innovative and agile in creating opportunities that can contribute to long-term and sustainable employment,” Hanekom mentions.
In fact, the plastics recycling industry in particular currently employs more than 47 000 people in the informal sector.
Optimistic about the future of the plastics industry, Hanekom indicates that government has requested the industry to submit its waste management plans for various sectors.
“During this past year, the plastics industry was forced to embrace change, adapt and face enormous challenges in a struggling economy that doesn’t always facilitate local manufacturing,” he notes.
However, with government having requested industry’s waste management plan, Hanekom mentions that this creates hope for the industry as this can be an indication that industry will be allowed to continue with current initiatives without too much interference from government.