This time of year we seem to have a spurt of energy to clean out cupboards, repack the garage and get rid of anything we don’t use.  Spring cleaning can also mean the rethinking of habits and is an ideal time to focus on the 5 “R’s”.  Repurpose, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Repair.

Due to the huge awareness of plastic pollution and the impact on the environment there is now a wide range of environmentally friendly packaging options on the market.  However with this overload of information comes confusion regarding type of packaging, labels and degrading processes.  The main focus in this article is on the recycling of products.

Is it Recyclable?

This is an important question in reducing waste to the landfills and avoiding recycling contamination through correct separation of waste.  Sorting out preferably at source prevents unnecessary problems within the recycling operations.

For a product to be recyclable the following three key factors must be in place:

– Facilities/technology must be in place to recycle the item

– There must be a buyer for the item

– The economics must work for the processor (the critical mass of certain material is essential)

On household level:

The most straight forward way for a household to get rid of waste is via municipal waste collection. Recycled curb side waste consists of paper, glass and plastic items.  Other household items that cannot be recycled at the curb side but can be taken to special facilities for recycling are for example e-waste, light bulbs and batteries.

On municipal level:

In South Africa the capacity of landfills to accept waste is becoming a crisis. A lot of waste sent to landfills can be recycled at source.  In order to divert or reduce waste to the landfills government has through various agreements with the private sector helped to increase the recycling of waste at source. In 2014 waste pickers saved the government approximately R750 million through their informal recycling services.

On industry level:

South Africa has a well-established plastic recycling industry and in 2017 provided jobs to more than 52 000 collectors. In 2017 alone 313 700 tons of plastic material was collected and recycled which is equivalent space saving at the landfills of 714 Olympic swimming pools.  The plastic recycling processes are divided into three broad categories.

– Mechanical recycling is when plastic products are recycled and made into similar products for example used bags into black refuse bags.

– Chemical recycling is when fuel and certain chemicals are derived from plastic material

– Thermal recycling is when the waste forms part of feedstock.

In the UK manufacturers and retailers in an effort to move away from single-use plastics use recycled plastic for food containers. The food containers are made predominantly from coloured PET bottles and trays.

The importance of developing Circular Economies:

The common linear plastic packaging systems have economic and environmental disadvantages, where a circular system reduces waste/litter and diverts materials going to landfills. For the circular system to work properly commitment and action from all stakeholders involved is required.  A global commitment has been signed by more than 250 organisations, representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced worldwide.  The South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO) wants to start a similar commitment (South Africa Plastic Pact (SAPP)) with stakeholders in South Africa to promote circularity plastic systems by keeping plastics in the economy and out of the environment.

Waste management globally has over the past decades concentrated on the linear model of “take, make, dispose” which has resulted in the concerning plastic pollution situation of today. By encouraging waste prevention, recycling, and reducing the depletion and pollution of resources a circular economy will assist in improving the current environmental pollution problems.

Ref:  We need earth


In summary keeping the 5 “R’s” in mind when using packaging contributes to decreasing the negative impact of products on the environment.

Repurpose: using bottle caps for tea lights

Recycle: plastic recycled into refuse bags

Reduce:  reduce food waste by proper storage of food

Reuse:  decorate a tin can and use as a pencil holder

Repair: repair packaging equipment and pallets instead of buying new ones.

Multi-cup Solutions, as a well-established food and beverage packaging supplier in the South African market, made the responsible decision to add a new range of environmentally friendly products to their extensive  product list.

For more information on our full range of recyclable and enviro friendly food and beverage packaging contact us on 011 058 4200.