August / September 2014

August / September 2014


Women are buoying our industry

WITH August 9 being National Women’s Day, it’s appropriate that we – for the first time – pay tribute to the women who are buoying our industry!

The various sector associations which have emerged in the industry over the past decade-plus a few years have in most cases opted for female managers. But it wasn’t simply a case of appointing women to brighten things up a bit: these people have had to be smart to deal with wide-ranging challenges.

The women who have been tasked with managing PETCO, POLYCO, PSPC; SAPPMA, SAPRO and SAVA (as well as the rebranding of the umbrella body PlasticsSA) have had to take responsibility for the full representation of their various materials’ public image as well as other tasks. We’re grateful for what they’re doing, and stylishly too. 


No winners from strike

There won’t be any winners from the recent metalworkers strike but, from our perspective, there will be one guaranteed result, and that unfortunately is that more workers will lose their jobs. That was the direct outcome of the 2011 edition of the labour protest – several thousand lost their jobs then. And now we’re seeing a repeat of that. So we have a badly polarised position what is proving difficult to change.


Import-parity situation

Some in the industry are unfortunately celebrating the somewhat poetically set R543-million fine that the Competition Commission hit Sasol with for anti-competitive behaviour in sales of polypropylene. Our research revealed a very different and complex picture, however. Until a few years ago, both the local polyolefins manufacturers, Safripol and Sasol, had import protection for HD, LD and PP. It was during this era that an aggressive anti-Sasol attitude developed in the industry and even awareness of the fact that import duties were a standard feature in many countries around the world, covering many varied products, did not deter these individuals.

Since the phasing out of duties in 2010, however, the polymer importers have not been able to compete with Sasol’s prices, and their best opportunities to sell have come when Sasol or Safripol have had production problems and not been able to supply.


Plastic scrap exports are dodgy

The fact that local recyclers cannot compete with Chinese buyers when it comes to purchasing plastic scrap should raise alarm bells. Why? Simple arithmetic actually: the present value of collected plastic material ranges from R2500-4000 a ton, but the ton of collected pangolin scales intercepted in a shipment of PET scrap (ex-SA) by customs officials in Hong Kong recently had an estimated value of R5-million. The latter figure may be inflated, but would vastly exceed the value of the entire container of scrap of about R70,000. In 2011 a shipment containing a large number of rhino horns was intercepted too, not surprisingly also hidden in bales of PET containers. We appreciate the diligence of the Hong Kong officials, using x-ray detecting devices. 

Martin Wells, Publisher