Safripol Sustainability Conference Report
One of the most significant takeouts of Safripol’s recent Sustainability Conference is that there is value to be had in waste, in particular plastic waste. However, to realise that value requires the ability to physically recycle waste combined with all stakeholders in the value chain having the will to ensure a circular economy, pointed out Nico van Niekerk, CEO of Safripol, a leading polymer producer and marketer which has long led the charge to use ‘plastic responsibly’. The company is committed to the pursuit of a working circular economy, safeguarding natural resources and creating a sustainable future.
The fourth Safripol Sustainability Conference, held in Sandton on the 15th and 16th of March 2023, coincided with the launch of Safripol’s first recycled polyethylene terephthalate plastic (rPET) product, ASPIRER , which contains 15% to 25% post-consumer recycled plastic. The new product, explained Van Niekerk, will have an impact across the entire plastic waste recycling value chain, emphasising the fact that plastic waste has a real value and helping manufacturers to adhere to the Waste Act which currently requires 12.5% post-consumer rPET in plastic products.
Watch highlights from our 4th annual Sustainability Conference held on 15th and 16th of March 2023.05.08
Nico Van Niekerk, CEO, Safripol
Our CEO, Nico Van Niekerk reiterates our commitment to the pursuit of a working circular economy, safeguarding natural resources and creating a sustainable future.
Nico explains that plastic waste has value, but it takes willingness and action on the part of all stakeholders in the value chain through ever-greater recycling efforts.
Nico also announces the launch of Safripol’s first recycled polyethylene terephthalate plastic (rPET) product, ASPIRER , which contains 15% to 25% post-consumer recycled plastic. He explains the anticipated impact this new product will have across the entire plastic waste recycling value chain and also points out that it will help manufacturers to adhere to the new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations.
Legislation aims to drive plastic sustainability and circularity forward
Barbara Creecy, Minister of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment explains the government’s drive to move plastic sustainability and circularity forward stating that legislation requires plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags are to be made from 75% recycled materials from 2025 and 100% from 2027. The Minister highlights the support of the industry for the Industrial Policy Action Plan, the Plastics Master Plan, amended plastic bag regulations, and the new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations implemented in 2022.
Annabe Pretorius, Plastics SA executive, points to the need for improvement when it comes to re-use so that materials are kept in circulation longer.
Graham Holder, MD at the Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (Ceflex), suggests that to be sustainable, the plastic circular economy needs to be demand-driven and explains the Ceflex initiative and their aim of making all flexible packaging in Europe circular by 2025.
In South Africa, legislation is aimed at driving plastic sustainability and circularity forward. As of 1 January 2023, plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags were required to be made from a minimum of 50% post-consumer recyclate. From 2025, they need to be made from 75% recycled materials and from 2027, they need to be made from 100% post-consumer recyclate.
Speaking at Safripol’s Sustainability Conference, Minister of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, said industry has been very supportive of policy interventions and programmes aimed at ensuring a safer and a cleaner South Africa, including the Industrial Policy Action Plan, the Plastics Master Plan, amended plastic bag regulations as well as the new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations implemented in 2022.
Creecy reported that government is working with industry on how deposit schemes can work and to improve EPR schemes as well as with municipalities to ensure that plastic waste is recycled.
The circular economy is based on three principles: the elimination of waste and pollution; the circulation of products and materials at their highest value; and the regeneration and re-use of materials. Annabe Pretorius, Plastics SA executive, pointed out that there is room for improvement when it comes to re-use. “Currently, there is some re-use in tertiary packaging, very little re-use in beverage bottles and some re-use in treated water. However, we need to get better at keeping materials in circulation for longer.”
Although South Africa has successfully grown the tonnage of plastic it recycles by 50% since 2011, the tonnage that is not collected has increased by 40% in the same period, indicating that the output recycling rate has not improved. The majority of plastic that is recycled is harvested by waste pickers at landfill which is an ineffective approach.
A more effective approach, she said, is a cradle to grave approach which starts with designing plastic products with circularity in mind and then shortening the value chain by separating recyclables at source. “South Africa is making progress but still needs to address the challenges of waste management and collection,” said Pretorius.
Graham Holder, MD at the Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (Ceflex), said that to be sustainable, the plastic circular economy needs to be demand-driven. The Ceflex initiative is a collaboration of European companies, associations and organisations representing the entire value chain of flexible packaging with the aim of making all flexible packaging in Europe circular by 2025.
Nobody wants legislation but it’s an important enabler for a circular economy, he said, adding that the role of legislation is to establish a level playing field and to penalise those who don’t adhere to the regulations. Creating a sustainable circular economy requires that stakeholders know what is entering the market and understanding the end market so that the necessary recycling infrastructure can be developed.
Driving circularity through reuse and recycling
Kalojan Iliev, CEO of Erema, a market leader for plastic recycling machines, talks about the need for chemical recycling to recycle plastic that can’t be mechanically recycled, outlining however that chemical recycling only makes sense when there are the necessary volumes as the costs are too high to accommodate low volumes.
Helen Mcgeough, a senior analyst for plastic recycling at Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS) HBE talks about the macroenvironment for plastic recycling being challenging currently given high energy and feedstock costs.
The discussion continues on the high expectations of what the UN’s Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) Resolution will deliver.
Chadru Wadhwani, the joint MD of Exrupet suggests that the key to responding to some of the challenges facing plastics is to use a higher content of recycled material in plastic products. Plastic waste pollution will not be addressed unless products are designed with recycling in mind. Walter Jordaan, Director at Myplas shared some of the successes in polyolefin recycling in South Africa, but stressed that change is required across the value chain to grow the industry.
Reuse models versus traditional one-way packaging
Dr Pippa Notten, the principal consultant at The Green House, a Cape Town-based sustainability consulting firm explains that lifecycle assessment studies help decision-makers to evaluate the environmental performance of a product system. It is important to consider the whole packaging system, widespread distribution, standardisation, competitive pricing and critically, accessibility and convenience.
Klaus-Peter Schmidt, Head of Global Product Development & Global Sustainability Management at Mauser, discusses cascading reuse and recycling in industrial packaging and emphasises that the core principles of sustainable packaging don’t change.
Peter Sandkuehler, Sustainability Director for EMEA at Dow Packaging & Speciality Plastics, revealed that Dow has committed to accelerating the circular ecosystem by transforming waste and alternative feedstock to deliver three million metric tons of circular and renewable solutions per year by 2030.
Case studies: brand owners driving plastics circularity
South African brand owners discuss how they are driving sustainability and advancing plastic circularity.
Devin Galtrey, sustainability, and packaging specialist at Spar, talks about Spar’s ‘Our Tomorrow’ initiative and how they have set themselves ambitious targets to ensure that in the next couple of years, 100% of its packaging will be reusable.
Nozicelo Ngcobo, PACS Director at CCBSA, the 4th largest Coca-Cola bottler globally, updates us on their ‘World without waste’ initiative, launched in 2018 with the aim of collecting and recycling a bottle or can for every one the company sells. The group is in the process of removing colour from its packaging with Sprite being the first product to remove colour.
Rowena Gilpin, sustainable plastics lead for Africa at Unilever, reaffirmed Unilever’s vision to be a global leader when it comes to sustainability with plans to halve the amount of virgin plastic it uses in its packaging by 2025 and to collect and process more plastic packaging that it sells.
Collection and education key to mobilise circularity
Mark mcClue shared the Hennops Revival story and demonstrated how active citizenship can bring about a movement of change and drive positive impact at grass-roots levels. Londiwe Mbuyisa, a founder of Isphepho Enviro Ambassadors, a recycling buy-back centre based in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, supported by Safripol, explains that they collect waste from 40 schools where a separation at source programme has been implemented. The initiative ensures that learners buy into the scheme and get excited about recycling waste.
Nicholas Kolesch, vice president of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste detailed the alliance’s focus is on improving the collection, sorting, processing, recycling, and valorisation of plastic waste via 60 projects across 30 countries. In SA, the alliance is supporting plastic circularity via projects based in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, and the Western Cape.
Producer responsibility organisations (PROs) growing plastic circularity in SA
All producers are required by law to become members of an approved extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme or producer responsibility organisation (PRO).
Polyco is a non-profit organisation representing all plastic packaging polymer types. It also manages all plastic types under South Africa’s new EPR regulations. Since its establishment it has invested more than R55 million into plastic recycling in South Africa, collecting and recycling thousands of tonnes of plastic packaging through various initiatives. Francois Marais, the executive EPR specialist at Polyco, discusses education and awareness as a primary focus of Polyco.
Petco CEO Cheri Stoltz highlights the importance of the value chain, including collection, recycling capacity and end-use demand in promoting a circular economy. She explains
Petco support to the value chain by paying waste pickers a service fee, providing material-specific support, and logistics support for collection in rural areas, and paying an export subsidy and a finished goods subsidy. Stoltz references partnerships with Safripol and with the Coca-Cola Foundation that have enabled a number of successful programmes and initiatives to establish buy-back centres, implement litter boom solutions in rivers, and to track and trace recyclables, amongst others.
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