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Recycling plastics for a sustainable future

Recycling plastic for a sustainable future

Plastic is everywhere!

Plastic is everywhere you look, it's your water bottle, your Tupperware, it's in your sunglasses and even in your car. Take a look around you. Chances are that most of what you see contains some form of plastic.

What is plastic?

Plastic is essentially a synthetic polymer. 99% of plastics are derived from crude oil which is used to produce monomers. These monomers are joined together by means of a chemical bonding process to create a polymer.

Why plastic?

Plastic is commonly used because of its ability to be extruded or moulded into an endless variety of shapes. There are a number of benefits of using plastic over other materials:

  • The manufacture of plastics consumes less energy
  • Plastics are resource efficient
  • Plastic is lightweight and highly durable
  • Plastic is low-maintenance and weather resistant
  • Plastics can preserve and distribute water economically, reliably and safely
  • Plastics are long-lasting – plastic water pipes have a guaranteed life of 50 years
  • Most importantly: Plastic can be reused and recycled!

Types of plastic

Different types of plastics are made from different polymers and therefore do different things and perform in different ways.

Most plastic products contain a polymer identification code for the easy identification of what type of plastic is used:

 Plastic ID Code  Abbreviation  Plastic Type  Applications
polyethylene terephtalate id code  PET  Polyethylene Terephtalate  Packaging: bottles, containers, plastic film, etc.
 high density polyethylene id code  HDPE  High Density Polyethylene  Buckets, containers, agricultural pipe, etc.
 polyvinyl chloride id code  PVC  Polyvinyl Chloride  Pipes & gutters, packaging, motor components, medical products, protective clothing, etc.
 low density polyethylene  LDPE  Low Density Polyethylene  Packaging film, cosmetic bottles, low pressure pipes, etc.
 polypropylene  PP  Polypropylene  Bottle caps, containers, kitchenware, plastic chairs, etc.
 polystyrene  PS  Polystyrene  Display & protective packaging, insulation, etc.
 other  -  Other  Electronic devices, sports gear, machine parts, etc.

Why Recycle?

While plastic presents many beneficial opportunities, it also presents one of the major hazards to the environment. Plastic is highly-resistant to degradation and can take up to as much as 500 years to fully break down and if not recycled, typically end up in landfill sites or dumped in the ocean, contributing heavily to the world's pollution and presenting a critical danger to animals.

By recovering and recycling these plastics, the amount of environmental waste can be dramatically reduced and reprocessed into useful products.

How is plastic recycled?

1. Collection

Plastics are collected from waste bins and industrial sites and sorted according to their identification code and colour.

2. Preparation

The sorted plastics are shredded and washed to remove any plastic labels or left over impurities.

3. Extrusion

The clean plastic is then melted and extruded into small pellets.

4. Reuse

These plastics pellets are use in the manufacture of other useful products such as bins or plastic bags.

The Challenge

Although this process may seem like a simple one, it is actually very complicated and poses many challenges. Because of the formation of different molecules in different plastics, plastics require a lot of processing in order to be recycled as heating alone cannot dissolve these diverse molecules. This is why we have polymer identification codes so that we can sort out the different types of plastics to be recycled separately. However, this can often be a difficult task.

Is there an alternative?

Another environmentally-friendly method for disposing of non-recyclable material and plastics is clean waste-to-energy incineration. As the name suggests, waste-to-energy incineration is the process of creating energy such as electricity or heat through the combustion (or incineration) of waste material. By incinerating waste that includes plastic, incinerators are able to reduce the amount of waste without using fuel to operate and can even generate energy at the same time!

Useful Recources

Guide to recycling in South Africa

Reusing Stuff

In the News





SAICE-WRC AQUALIBRIUM Competition finalists spend a day with Marley

On the 11th December, Marley gave five aspiring civil engineers from the group of SAICE-WRC Schools Water Competition finalists the opportunity to join them at the Marley factory in Nigel to gain valuable behind-the-scenes insight into the manufacturing environment and the practicalities of the industry.

The day kicked off with a speech from Louis Albertyn, MD of Marley Pipe Systems, welcoming the five students who came from around the country to spend a day learning the inner workings of the Marley factory. The students, Wihan Cahill (18) from Cape Town, Hoteb Nkadimeng (18) and Trinity Nkosi (18) from Middelburg, and Michelle Maleka (17) and Sevelo Khoza (18) from Johannesburg, were excited to be given this opportunity to follow in the footsteps of their career of choice and were eager to find out more about this lucrative industry.

Throughout the day, the students were introduced to Marley’s various operations, from showcasing their Marley Value Partner video which demonstrates Marley’s commitment towards a responsible plastic pipe industry, to a presentation on the Marley product range and what is involved in the complex manufacturing processes that make up a quality pipe. They were then given an exclusive tour of the factory by Chris Wright, Manufacturing Manager at Marley, to get a hands-on view of just how the pipes move through the production process.

To break the seriousness of the day, the students were tasked with building a bridge using only jellytots and toothpicks which proved to be a fun-filled and educational activity for all. At the beginning of the day, the students were also forewarned about a challenge that they would be given which involved conceptualising a new solution that would promote sustainable living using Marley pipes. The students came up with some innovative ideas, including a solar powered pumping station to catch rainwater.

Also there on the day was Marie Ashpole from the South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE). Marie was closely involved in the SAICE-WRC Schools Water Competition and was only too willing to contribute to Marley’s worthwhile venture to help and encourage learners who wish to become a part of this vital profession.

Marie stated that, “The Aqualibrium competition succeeds in inspiring students from disadvantaged schools to get into civil engineering and without the sponsorship of companies like Marley, it would not be possible.

In addition, the learners appreciated the Marley Student Day and it went a long way to broadening their understanding of not only what Marley does, but also of the civil engineering as well as construction industry in terms of where pipes are used and where it fits into completing infrastructure projects.”

As one of the major sponsors at this year’s AQUALIBRIUM, Marley demonstrated a commitment that extends far beyond the manufacturing of pipes, and will continue to do so by investing in many more initiatives aimed at water conservation awareness and education, and towards the betterment of South Africa’s infrastructure.

Marley Sponsors AQUALIBRIUM, the SAICE-WRC Schools Competition 2012

August 2012 – As part of its commitment to making a difference through various educational initiatives that focus on the preservation of water for future generations and encouraging the youth to become part of this effort, Marley Infrastructure, a division of Marley Pipe Systems, was one of the major sponsors at this year’s SAICE-WRC Schools Water Competition.

The finals of the competition were held at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown, Johannesburg on Friday 27 July 2012, where winners of the individual regional competitions came together in Johannesburg to battle it out for prize-money totalling more than R17 000-00.

To open the event, Marley’s Pranesh Maniraj addressed the students on the importance of water as a precious asset and the role of water reticulation as a means of saving this fundamental resource from one day running out. Professor Kobus van Zyl then briefed the students on what the competition would entail.

The teams of three students each were tasked with designing a model water distribution network that would distribute three litres of water equally between three points on the grid using two different diameter pipes and connection pieces. Each team had about an hour in which to design, build and operate their network and were judged according to a penalty system.

The champions for 2012 came from the Domino Servite School near Pietermaritzburg with a total of 160 penalty points conceded. The team of students consisted of Bianca Coetzee, Ntengo Memela and Zama Nyembe, whose ingenuity and practicality in design and execution is testament to the untapped talent that the younger generation has to offer for the future of engineering and for the infrastructure of our country.

In addition, Marley selected six aspiring engineers and civil engineers from the group of finalists to partake in “a day with Marley” which would give them the opportunity to spend a day with a Marley representative and gain valuable insight into the manufacturing environment and the practicalities of the industry.

Marley is proud to have been a part of this progressive and worthwhile venture and looks forward to contributing to many more efforts geared towards identifying learners who wish to become a part of this vital profession and walking the journey with them as they reach their dreams for a better South Africa.

Contact Marley Pipe Systems

Marley Building Division
t. +27 11 739 8600
f. +27 11 739 8680

Marley Mining & Industrial Division
t. 0861 MARLEY (627539)
t. +27 12 045 0997
t. +27 83 282 3238 (HDPE/Weholite)


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