June / July 2018

June / July 2018

Industry faces toughest challenge yet as environmental
criticism grows louder


THE industry in South Africa and around the world faces probably its toughest challenge yet, that of dealing with the massive pressure placed on it and its partners to reduce and even eliminate the large quantities of plastic packaging litter that are entering and polluting the oceans.

The criticism by environmental groups has recently gathered momentum and gained wide public and consumer support, to the point where it is going to be very difficult to ignore – which is basically what has happened up till now. The tone of the criticism has changed and become more urgent and retailers around the world, certainly in the West, are sympathetic to the cause and are making plans to change. We could lose out badly if we do not change too.

The main culprits appear to be non-recyclable and ‘one way’ plastic goods and packaging, specifically film and bags, but there are other commonplace items which too face a rocky future, such as straws and ear buds. Some retailers in South Africa have reacted quickly (they had to) and agreed to phase out non-recyclables, but to achieve a complete change by 2022 must surely be unrealistic.

So the best features of plastic packaging goods, that they are light and flexible, have now become the chief problem: carelessly discarded packaging items either blow around in the wind or float down rivers, with the ultimate destination for both being the ocean gyres or to simply wash up and festoon themselves like unwelcome garlands on river banks and beaches. And even though fish and ocean mammals have miraculously survived the sustained onslaught of the global fishing industry lasting for several centuries, the sight of whales dying after ingesting plastic bags is outright tragic and most of you will see it that way too. Besides the blockage of their digestive systems, ingestion of bags or film makes these animals feel full, leading to loss of condition and ultimately death.

Besides that, sea birds and a host of other marine creatures are suffering as a result of both the litter and macro plastics which, almost unseen, have spread rampantly. The figures that are being presented are sometimes hard to believe, but a lot of research appears to have been done and it’s almost certainly going to be futile to resist. Plastic is in most cases the best solution for packaging, but failure to develop effective recyclable solutions and collection is turning the tables on it.

So, rather than argue, the way forward for the industry in South Africa may be to embrace the change and develop new solutions to counteract the problem. For one thing, we have a well-developed recycling sector and the country is proportionately one of the top performing recyclers in the industry internationally with a recycling rate of over 41% - which is a notable achievement.

The entire situation may be unfair on the industry in South Africa, and specifically our recyclers, as it appears, according to the WWF (Wildlife Fund for Nature), that over 40% of all plastic waste in the oceans comes from five countries – China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. It is not ironic that these countries are also the chief suspects of illegal wildlife trade.

However, given that brand owners and retailers are going to change, internationally and consequently in Africa too, we are going to need to too. It’s going to be difficult, but it’s either that or lose market share.


Martin Wells, Publisher


Industry News
  • Watertainer’s Tuff Tank is a water storage revolution
    Watertainer’s Tuff Tank is a water storage revolutionTHE barrier-breaking ‘Tuff Tank’ water storage system development by Watertainer – one of the biggest ventures in the injection moulding sector in Africa in some time – is taking shape in KZN.
  • RPC Astrapak buys Spec Group
    RPC Astrapak buys Spec GroupRPC ASTRAPAK has bought Spec Group for an undisclosed amount subject, to the finalisation of certain conditions precedent which are expected to be completed shortly.
  • Pro-10™ strapping’s now available
    Pro-10™ strapping’s now availablePRO-TEN Strap’s strapping production plant in Cape Town is up and running and the first batches of its Pro-10™ load-securing strapping have entered the market.
  • Plastic Concepts (Pty) Ltd celebrates 30+ years
    Plastic Concepts (Pty) Ltd celebrates 30+ yearsPLASTIC Concepts, specialists in the design and development of new products for the plastics industry, celebrate their 33rd anniversary this year.
  • Pac-Rite goes co-ex
    Pac-Rite goes co-exPAC-RITE, the KZN printed film and bag making business, has expanded its capabilities with the recent commissioning of an impressive co-extrusion line.
  • Packaging World is printing … at speed
    Packaging World is printing … at speedPACKAGING World took the decision to significantly expand its print capability in mid-2017 and less than a year later, got the project off to a flying start with the commissioning of its W&H Miraflex S flexographic printer.
  • Nylopack goes up a gear with another co-ex line
    Nylopack goes up a gear with another co-ex lineSPECIALISED films manufacturer Nylopack has recently installed its third major five-layer line from Rajoo, establishing itself as one of the leading co-ex films manufacturers in Southern Africa.
  • LDPE carrier bags come out tops in Danish LCA
    LDPE carrier bags come out tops in Danish LCAA RESEARCH study released earlier this year by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food’s Environmental Protection Agency, highlighted the importance of the design of the carrier bag and its functionality.
  • PTT of Thailand puts full backing behind exports drive
    PTT of Thailand puts full backing behind exports driveIT WASN’T quite a Thai kick boxing festival, but the visiting delegates from polymers manufacturer PTT of Thailand put on an impressive show during the International Polymer Solutions Seminar they hosted in Johannesburg in May.
  • SA’s tyre recycling ventures reach an impasse
    SA’s tyre recycling ventures reach an impasseSOUTH Africa's tyre recycling initiatives have run into a cul-de-sac. After the first industry-sponsored recycling programme REDISA was terminated in mid-2017 ...