Safripol Sustainability Conference 2022

The Power of “R” Conference

On the 16th and 17th of March 2022, Safripol hosted its much anticipated third annual sustainability conference. This year the conference focused on solutions required to unlock opportunities for the plastics industry through The Power of “R”. This one-of-a-kind hybrid event was held at Hilton Hotel in Sandton, and was live-streamed, with over 200 delegates in attendance.

Host Michael Avery, a well-respected financial journalist, and business Talk show host, once again convened this year’s event stimulating interesting dialogue and challenging the status quo. Over the one and a half-day event, delegates were spoilt for choice as a dynamic line-up of speakers and diverse value chain actors shared their insights and thought leadership on unlocking opportunities through the five “R’s” – reducing, re-using, recycling, re-thinking, and re-purposing plastics.

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In his opening address, Safripol’s Chief Executive Officer, Nico van Niekerk briefed the delegates on Safripol’s Let’s plastic responsibly movement and what it means to plastic responsibly for the industry and the consumer. Mamogala Musekene, the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries & the Environment then highlighted how the government is providing an enabling regulatory environment in South Africa for curbing plastic pollution. Dr. Peter Sandkuehler (Dow Europe) shared some of the recycling best practices from the European plastic industry and some learnings relevant to Africa. Next, we heard from Deidre Penfold, the Executive Director of the Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) who addressed the future of the chemicals industry in South Africa with the Just Transition and highlighted the strong link between Just Transition, sustainable development goals, and climate change, all of which are key enablers for sustainability.

Professor Suzan Oelofse, Principal Scientist from CSIR shared for the first time a preliminary view of South Africa’s pollution flow as a data-driven evidence-based model for near-zero plastics leakage into our oceans. Then Luyanda Hlatshwayo took to the stage fully armed with a bulk bag filled with valuable recyclables and enthralled delegates when he took us through a day in the life of waste reclaimers – “Everyday Environmental Heroes”. Luyanda highlighted the challenges the waste reclaimers face on a daily basis and said that “if it has no value, it will be land-filled” challenging the industry to attach more value to plastic waste. Then we heard from Benoit Vuillermorz from Husky, one of the industry’s leading machine manufacturers who shared some of the innovations driving the sustainability of PET. Day one ended on a buzz when in the wrap-up Gert Claasen from Safripol said we need to “uber-nise” collections and that if it is not collected, it is not recyclable. He reiterated that we need more EEHs – “Everyday Environmental Heroes”.

Day two did not disappoint and kicked off with Dr. Kirsten Barnes, one of the leading plastics circular economy experts in the country, who explained how the circular economy presents one of the biggest opportunities for the plastics industry. Dr. Aneé Sieberhagen from Nampak challenged the misconception of the environmental impact of glass Vs PET and presented carbon footprint data comparing both packaging materials. Then Wessel Oelofse shared the journey of Versapak’s innovative design for thermoformed PET trays that are fully recyclable closing the loop in the circular economy.

Next, we heard from Dr. Rob van Hille who shared the re-use model of industrial containers, such as drums and poly-cans, demonstrating the potential to become a model for a closed-loop circular plastics economy in SA. Alessandro Falzoni and Iacopo Bianconcini from Sacmi jointly gave an interesting presentation on how Sacmi is developing innovative design, materials, and technologies for beverage packaging aligned to 3R’s – reduce, re-use, and recycle. Finally, Siphiwe Rakgabale from Tri Eco shared grassroots innovations of resolving waste management through litter-boom intervention. In the closing message, Dr. Avashnee Chetty from Safripol said that the plastic industry has chosen to be part of the solution and she highlighted the two biggest agendas for the industry i.e. the circular economy and driving a low carbon future, as well as the important role of collaborations in driving this forward.

In the end, the conference presented ample opportunities for meaningful engagement, partnerships, and most importantly for closing the communication and dialogue gap in the rather long plastics value chain.

All in all, Safripol’s 2022 Sustainability Conference to the Power of “R” proved to be

bigger, better, and bolder, It is now up to the delegates themselves to take the conversation back to their organisations and put in place action plans that can bring about real change, not only for the plastics industry but more importantly, for the future of our planet.