Market Study for South Africa: Circularity in the Plastics Value Chain – Opportunities and Barriers

How can South Africa successfully transition to a circular economy for plastics?

South Africa has a large mining sector, including considerable coal, which is the feedstock for the majority of energy supply in the country, and the largest source of material for plastics production locally. Additional fossil fuel sources for plastics in South Africa include oil and natural gas, all non-renewable resources.

Circularity in plastics in South Africa is currently largely focussed on mechanical plastic recycling, with market growth facilitated through voluntary EPR packaging schemes for PET beverage, rigid polyolefins and some flexible polyolefins, polystyrene (both expanded polystyrene and high impact polystyrene), and to a lesser degree, vinyl packaging. The inclusion of other plastics products is largely incidental, or driven through specific sustainability and waste management goals of producers.

The market sectors included in this study will include plastic packaging and the automotive industry, and also include the construction and agricultural industries, electrical and electronic goods on the market in South Africa.

The study will consider market opportunities in:

  • material substitution to reduce the burden of problematic and currently unrecyclable plastics in South Africa;
  • models using reusable packaging, categorised according to the models 1. refill at home, 2. return from home, 3. refill on the go, and 4. return on the go, as per the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s (2019) Reuse – Rethinking packaging publication.;
  • recycling – closed loop, and recycling – open loop, including the necessary interventions to drive recyclability and the inclusion of recycled content.

The project will be led by GreenCape in collaboration with ACEN Foundation, WRAP, Trinomics, WWF South Africa and SAPRO.