Telephone: +27 11 463 9909 Fax: +27 11 463 9587
Postal address: PO Box 131400, Bryanston 2021, South Africa.
E-mail: Andrew Marthinusen, Executive Director
Since there are technical limits to the amount of plastics that can be recycled as a material, and given the high energy content of plastics (plastic has a calorific energy 40% better than coal), energy recovery is sometimes a more feasible recycling approach. Since the plastics replace other fossil fuels used for energy generation, the approach is environmentally sound provided it is done under controlled circumstances at extremely high temperatures in order to minimise atmospheric pollution.
The following chart shows the relative extent to which plastics packaging waste is recovered as a material and as energy in Europe:
South Africa has an established recycling industry and in plastics packaging in particular our recycling rates compare favourably with Europe. However, to date, there has been no energy from plastic waste plants in South Africa. This may well be an option going forward as controlled recovery is now permitted in the Act.
However the small volume of contaminated and unsuitable plastic and paper waste, the big distances in SA, and the comparatively cheap coal, make it unlikely to be an economically and environmentally attractive option on its own. It will be necessary within the term of the Plan to consider cogeneration with other suitable waste streams. Another possible use is the manufacture of diesel derived from plastic waste. A pilot plant is being established in Cape Town.