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The 6 Truths About Plastic Polyolefin Packaging

Plastics are indispensable in our modern world of travel, communication, healthcare, and food safety and shelf-life.

Plastic, however, gets a lot of bad press, taking the brunt of the world’s pollution problem. But the majority of plastic products are recyclable. So, we’d argue that plastics are not the problem, but rather that there has been a lack of efficient systems to responsibly manage plastics at the end of their useful life. The more people and businesses dispose of their waste responsibly for collection and recycling, the less pollution we will see in landfill, on our beaches and in our oceans.

Rigid plastic packaging is made from polyolefins and includes milk bottles, personal care and medication containers, yoghurt, margarine and ice cream tubs, and paint and chemical buckets. When you think of rigid packaging made from polypropylene (5) or HDPE (2), think of containers with a lid.

Rigid polypropylene (5) and HDPE (2) are part of a family of plastics called polyolefins and are the gold standard when it comes to recyclability. They hold many advantages over other materials we’ve been led to believe are more sustainable.

Here are 6 truths about the benefits of polyolefin packaging:

1. Lower carbon footprint than other materials

All packaging comes with a carbon footprint because of the raw materials and manufacturing processes used to make it. However, rigid polyolefins have less impact on our environment than other materials commonly used in packaging. This is because polyolefins are resilient, strong and lightweight. So, compared to other materials, polyolefin packaging consumes fewer natural resources to produce and its lightweight properties make it more efficient in transportation. As a result, if we stop using polyolefins in the packaging production process, we’d negatively impact our environment by increasing energy consumption and CO2 carbon emissions produced by alternative materials.

2. Extends shelf-life so minimises food waste

Polyolefin packaging is also very functional. It preserves and presents the packaged product in perfect condition, it is hygienic and extends shelf-life; which, in turn, avoids millions of tons of food waste each year.

3. Durable and safe

Plastic packaging is virtually impossible to break, making it extremely durable. This also means it’s shatterproof so it won’t break up into sharp pieces if dropped, like glass.

4. Re-usable

Rigid plastic containers, such as ice cream, yoghurt and margarine tubs, are reusable and are great for storage.

5. Recyclable

Polyolefins are recyclable. Recycling involves processing materials that would otherwise be sent to landfills and turning them into new products.

Recycling uses less energy to make a new product from recycled material than from having to manufacture from virgin materials because fewer fossil fuels are burned, reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and greenhouse gases which has a positive impact on global warming.

6. Contributes to job creation

Recycling contributes to job creation. An estimated 60 – 90 000 informal waste reclaimers in South Africa earn a living from collecting and sorting recyclable waste. The informal waste sector not only plays an essential role in the circular economy and in diverting waste from landfills but also creates thousands of work opportunities for South Africa’s unskilled labour force to provide a stable and meaningful income for themselves and their families. Recycling polyolefin packaging moves these individuals from “informal” to formal contributors to the South African economy.

The solution to plastic waste lies in an approach that puts the correct systems and behaviours in place which allows for collecting, recycling and reusing plastic waste. The Reproplast Collective EPR Scheme is committed to a circular economy and works tirelessly with waste collection networks in the collection, sorting and recycling of polyolefin plastic waste.

Go to to find out more about the Reproplast Collective EPR Scheme and the polyolefin packaging our producers manufacture.

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