The plastics industry is at a turning point globally due to environmental concerns and international pressures to ban plastics; the industry will have to adapt and innovate to shed its negative public image.

Plastics is the material of choice for various industries and plays a vital role in food safety, safety, transportation, energy, communication and entertainment.

The packaging, technical, automotive and building industries rely on plastics and its characteristics to manufacture components and parts necessary for the product success and market distribution.

However, plastic waste management is still a critical problem globally, with focus on pollution and litter. Continued pressure to ban plastic bags and other single-use plastics is threatening the industry.

South Africa is not far behind, with concerns about plastics waste management sparking various recycling initiatives. The country needs to rethink the plastics value chain and life cycle and adopt a new ‘circular economy’ model, according to Plastics South Africa.

Plastics’ properties, including versatility and durability, can contribute to a more environmentally sustainable South Africa if the whole chain from manufacturing to waste management and recycling is viewed as an inclusive and value-adding process by all parties: consumers, manufacturers, business owners, and the government.

It can be achieved through strategic initiatives and public-private partnerships, the possibility of open discussions on matters affecting the industry, and the development of a new roadmap based on the circular economy approach.

Previously, sustainability growth was limited to recycling waste and its methods; with a circular economy focus, the industry looks at adapting products and processes before plastic even becomes waste.

The way to drive sustainability forward includes initiatives to identify constraints and bottlenecks in the manufacturing process, procedures to better inspect and control plastics imports, and educating the society on the benefits of plastics and its impact on the environment.

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