The recycling of plastic has become a huge focus for the plastic industry over the past couple of years as more plastic manufactures look to reducing their impact of the environment. PE-LD (Low-density polyethylene) is the most widely recycled packaging polymer in South Africa and is fairly easy to recycle. For these reasons, PE-LD is the most popular packaging material in South Africa.

PE-LD is used to manufacture grocery packaging, plastic films and sheets, flexible hoses as well as cable insulation. This types of plastic are highly durable and can withstand wear and tear and therefore can usually be used multiple times before being discarded. By reusing these PE-LD products, consumers can save money rather.

However, when it is discarded, it is essential to ensure that it will be recycled as it contributes to the local environment as well as helps the environment.

The recycling process

The PE-LD packaging is first collected by waste management companies and informal waste collectors. The plastic is then bailed into bundles for transport. These compressed bundles are then taken to recycling facilities to be turned in to recyclate.

The bundles of PE-LD plastic is undone and then separated by grade. This is because due to the various different uses of PE-LD plastic products, the quality of different products will vary. Once separated by grade, the plastic is washed by hand to remove any dirt, debris and contaminants to ensure the PE-LD recyclate batch will be pure.

The clean plastic is then fed into a large shredder which cuts the plastic into thin strips. These strips of plastic are then fed into an oven where the plastic is melted down to form a plastic sheet. The sheet is dried and cooled before it is then bailed and sold back to plastic manufacturers to be made into packaging or other PE-LD products such as bin liners, flexible buckets, irrigation hoses and construction sheeting.

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