recycle black bags packaging
(Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)
  • Tuffy’s manufacturing plant produces 800,000 refuse bags a day out of 100% recycled material.
  • Employing 300 locals and hundreds more as part of the circular economy, the factory operates 24-hours a day, five days a week.
  • In line with extended producer responsibility schemes and the South African Plastics Pact, attention has turned to creating effective collection programmes.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Working at 24-hours a day, five days a week, Tuffy’s Stikland factory on the outskirts of Cape Town manages to recycle more than 300 tons of plastic waste every month.

This process, which begins by breaking plastic waste down into smaller chunks or beads, produces approximately 800,000 refuse bags every day.

Business Insider this week visited the factory where Tuffy revolutionised the packaging industry in South Africa by becoming the first company to use 100% recycled material in its products.

In this way, the 30-year-old company has managed to lighten the load on the country’s landfills by incentivising plastic waste collection and strengthening the circular economy which requires producers to be responsible for the reduction, reuse, and recycling of waste.

As South Africa’s dumpsites face mounting pressure, with waste spilling into the streets and nearby communities, recent government interventions aim to hold both consumers and producers accountable for the country’s trash crisis. Amendments to the National Environmental Management’s Waste Act, which were officially gazetted in November 2020, enforce extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws.

READ | SA gets strict new recycling rules for plastic, paper and many other products

recycle packaging
(Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Some 40% of households have no formal waste collection in South Africa, according to the South African Plastics Pact, an initiative spearheaded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA) and industry leaders. Informal waste pickers collect 80% to 90% of all recyclable materials.

The pact aims to formalise collection strategies and, by 2025, to have 70% of all plastic packaging effectively recycled.

recycle packaging
(Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)
recycle packaging
(Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

The plastic industry, which has faced pressure to adjust methods of production through tariffs and subsidised biodegradable alternatives, has an important role to play in limiting the environmental impact. Technological advancements coupled with vital job opportunities in the collection and recycling of plastic waste seem to be having positive results.

Approximately 300 locals are employed by Tuffy at its main manufacturing plant. This is in addition to the hundreds of jobs higher in the supply chain, which Tuffy relies on for the supply of its raw material; polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene and other recyclable plastic compounds.

recycle packaging
(Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)
recycle packaging
(Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)
recycle packaging
(Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

The plastic waste arrives at the manufacturing plant as smaller chunks which are easier to melt and mould. These pellets are thoroughly mixed and melted before being blown into a cylindrical bubble. Once cool, this tube is then pressed by rollers to create a film. The black refuse bags are then cut to size, perforated, and packaged for delivery.

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