A guide to Polypropylene recycling

Polypropylene (PP) is one of the most recycled packaging polymers in South Africa. It is usually used to manufacture products such as dairy product containers, homeware, plastic furniture as well as a whole range of other semi-flexible products.

PP is a highly durable polymer and can withstand a large amount of daily wear and tear. Therefore before throwing PP products away, consumers should see if they can instead be reused in their house. For example, ice cream containers are perfect for food storage as well as storage for things like stationary. The fact that PP is durable and non-toxic is the reason why so many of these PP products can be reused without having to be recycled. This makes PP a highly valuable plastic. However, if PP products are discarded, it can be recycled easily, which benefits the local economy and environment.

PP is an easily recycled polymer and is mechanically recycled, like most of the plastic in South Africa. Like other plastics being recycled, PP products are picked by waste management companies or informal waste collectors, sorted and then hand washed before being processed. The plastic is cleaned to ensure it is free of any dirt and contaminants to make sure the recyclate is pure.

The PP is then shredded into small pieces which are then fed into a large heated extruder. This extruder melts the plastic and extrudes it into fibres. These fibres are subsequently sold to textile companies, or they are cut into pellets. If they are cut into pellets, the pellets are then bailed and sold to plastic manufacturers. This recycled PP can then be manufactured into a whole host of plastic products.

Recycled PP can be manufactured into:

  • Garden twine
  • Dustbins
  • Shopping baskets
  • Coathangers
  • Flower pots
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Ice cream tubs
  • Butter tubs

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