Types of plastics

PET – POLYETHYLENE TEREPHTHALATE

PET is a favourite of soft drink manufacturers. It’s also used for bottled water and a wide variety of food products are packaged in it. South Africa has a PET recycling company, established in 2004, called Petco whose mission is “to achieve sustainable growth in PET recycling by facilitating post-consumer PET container collection”. Thanks to the efforts of Petco, PET container recycling is increasing significantly – from 2,000 tons in 2001 to 14,500 tons. Most used PET ends up in landfill sites in this country. Collectors gather the PET from there because they can earn a small amount of money for it – they are paid by weight, (in mid-2008 the value was somewhere around R1.80/kg to R2.20/kg depending on the colour of the PET). 1kg = about 25 x one-litre bottles or 50 x 500ml bottles. It takes about 30,000 PET bottles to make one ton of recycled PET, according to Petco.

PET is recycled into …
Hollow-fibre filling for jackets, duvets, pillows and sleeping bags is the main use for clear PET bottles in South Africa. Green bottles are turned into building insulation (Isotherm); PET is also recycled in geotextiles for road stabilisation and dam linings, and Plastiwood.

Where to take PET for recycling

HIGH-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE

You’ll find this logo on milk bottles, cleaning products, cosmetics and toiletries, crates and motor oils, among others.

HDPE is recycled into …
Recycling bins, compost bins, buckets, detergent containers, posts, fencing, pipes, plastic timber and plastic chairs.

Where to take it for recycling

POLYVINYL CHLORIDE

PVC has been described as a “difficult” plastic. Its use is being phased out – in many cases it is being replaced by PET. Try to avoid buying products with PVC packaging, but if you can’t avoic it, it is unlikely to be recycled so the Plastics Federation of SA’s advice is to just throw it away with ordinary rubbish.


LOW-DENSITY POLYETHYLENE

Number 4 plastic is used to make rubbish bags, frozen veggie bags, building film, some squeezable bottles and cosmetic tubs.

LDPE is recycled into …
Bin liners, pallet sheets, irrigation piping, a variety of containers, and construction and building film.

Where to take it for recycling

POLYPROPYLENE

This type of plastic is used in bottles, ice cream tubs, straws, microwave dishes, kettles, garden furniture, lunch boxes, packaging tape and bottle caps.

PP is recycled into …
Pegs, bins, pipes, pallet sheets, oil funnels, car battery cases and trays.

Where to take it for recycling

Drop-off points at Pikitup’s garden centres.

POLYSTYRENE
There are two kinds of polystyrene: high-impact, from which products like coathangers and yoghurt cups are made, and expanded polystyrene, from which meat and vegetable trays are made.

PS is recycled into …
Picture frames, curtain rails, finials, skirting boards, cornices, stationery eg, rulers, seedling trays, coathangers. Demand far outstrips supply in South Africa.

Where to take it for recycling

VARIETY OF OTHER PLASTICS INCLUDING ENGINEERING PLASTICS

This is not the type of plastic you’re likely to recycle at home. And, according to the Plastic Federation of SA, it is not recycled in South Africa at the moment, so put it in the dustbin.

UNMARKED PLASTICS
Advice from the Plastics Federation of SA is that if you have plastics not marked with a logo, but you think they may be recyclable, put them in a separate plastic bag, and drop them into the cage with the number 4 plastics. The recycling companies that collect the material from the drop-off sites will sort it out.