How loadshedding affects the South African plastics industry

A reality of conducting business in South Africa is that you will have to face loadshedding. With rolling blackouts expected to continue well into 2021, industries have had to look into ways to keep themselves afloat despite the lack of electricity.

The effect of loadshedding on the plastic industry

The plastic industry as a whole is heavily reliant on the use of electricity for the making and manufacturing of their products. Both manufacturers and recyclers rely on a constant and consistent supply of power in order for their machines to operate at their maximum capacity. According to Plastics SA, the conversion methods for plastic fabrication, for example, account for 15-18% of a manufacturer’s operating costs.

Loadshedding has, therefore, resulted in huge disruptions within the plastic industry. For example, because machines that have to run for 24 hours a day take a couple of hours to start up and reach their optimal temperature for full functionality lose power mid-operation during the day. This has, of course, disrupted the manufacturing process and therefore, has disrupted the entire business as a whole.

Raw materials and other resources have seen huge wastage as machines have to be scraped clean of any materials in order to begin the start-up process once the power, or back up power supply, kicks in.

A big concern that comes with loadshedding is the potential of voltage spikes. These spikes in power have led to expensive equipment and machinery to be damaged, decommissioned or rendered useless. This is a huge issue within the plastics industry as replacing machinery can set companies back financially and can have a negative impact on business.

All of these issues caused by loadshedding have resulted in many South African plastic manufacturers missing their deadlines. Therefore, customers have turned to foreign competitors as the South African manufacturers are being seen as unreliable. This has placed thousands of local jobs at risk.

What the future holds

The South African government has expressed an interest in looking into supplementary power purchase. This means that electricity could be acquired from solar and wind farms. Along with this the government plans to allow individual municipalities to procure their own power from independent electricity suppliers.

These plans could see the SA plastics industry regaining its feet and will, therefore, be protected from the effects of loadshedding.

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