South Africa’s Plastic Recycling Statistics for 2014

Submitted by: Karabo Motsoai, Wednesday, June 17, 2015

During 2014 1,084,400 tons of plastic waste was sent to South African landfills. This is according to the latest plastic recycling statistics released by PlasticsSA.  PlasticsSA commissions research into the status quo of the plastic recycling industry each year. The information is gathered by interviewing recyclers from around the country and intends to provide valuable data for the industry, government and other stakeholders. Anton Hanekom, Executive Director of Plastics SA explains the need for this research. “It gives us a clear indication of the flow of plastics products in South Africa, the state of the plastics recycling industry and the recycling markets. It is therefore a valuable tool for promotion, knowledge of the industry, forward planning and policy development.”

The 2014 results show that the amount of plastics converted from local production and imported materials in South Africa remains the same from the previous year at 1,400,000 tons. There has been a slight increase in 2014, 22.5% of plastic waste produced was recovered and recycled compared to the 20% of the previous year. “Although this is the same total as was reported for 2013, the conversion rates for certain types of plastics have increased and others decreased in tonnages owing to the impact of light-weighting plastics packaging, which had a marked increase on South Africa’s consumption rate, asserts Hanekom. A recovery of 32.9% of all plastics packaging material has been achieved.

The majority of plastics that are recycled in South Africa are used locally to manufacture new products, mainly films (packaging, building and industrial) and pipes. Of the 315,600 tons of plastics diverted from landfill in 2014, 90.2% was recycled locally; the remaining 9.85% which amounts to 31,087 tons were exported for recycling elsewhere. While this represents a slight increase from the previous year, the industry has witnessed a significant drop since 2009, when 97.6% of recovered waste was recycled in South Africa. Hanekom further explains that it is a challenging period for the industry, “Not only are we facing increased electricity, transport and raw material costs on the local front, but the sharp increase in imports also poses a very real threat to our progress.”

Employment in the sector

According to the statistics, 47420 people are employed by the industry’s informal sector and 6037 people by the formal sector. Overall, job creation in the industry increased by 11.4% in 2014 compared to the previous year. There are 221 recycling companies in South Africa and an estimated 1800 converters in the industry, most of which are Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME’s). 

The future of recycling

On the future of the recycling industry, Hanekom is confident that South Africa is on the right track. “South Africa is being recognized as one of the world leaders when it comes to “closing the loop”, or recycling products back into their original form.  Whilst our first choice will always be to recycle plastics for re-use, we are investigating waste-to-energy recovery options for difficult to recycle or end-of-life plastics that could provide a viable answer to our country’s current electricity crisis, save natural resources and support our objectives of saving landfill space, reducing litter, saving energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”

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Karabo Motsoai