Plastics SA has appointed industry veteran and plastics recycling expert Annabé Pretorius as executive: technical operations, at the company’s head office in Midrand, Gauteng.
Anton Hanekom, executive director at Plastics SA, explains that this brand-new position has been created to meet the growing demand for technical and industry information that is up-to-date, region specific and easily accessible.
“The need for current, evidence-based industry information and relevant trade data has become critical. Over the past few years, we have noticed a marked increase in the number of enquiries we receive on various topics relating to plastics, manufacturing, recycling and sustainability. Industry members, students, researchers, journalists, academics and members of the general public search online sources to find answers to their questions about the health and safety of plastics, its recyclability and versatility. Unfortunately, in many cases the articles and resources that are easiest to find are dated or publish unsubstantiated information that has very little bearing on our South African context. Few journalists and researchers take the time to conduct live interviews or to check their facts. As a result, we keep on seeing the same erroneous material being repeated in the media and used to draw inaccurate conclusions. We are hoping that this new position will become a valuable repository of factual and well-researched data that will correct these misconceptions and half-truths,” Hanekom says.
End-of-life solutions for used plastics
Pretoriusis the ideal person to fill this position, having worked in the plastics industry for more than 32 years. A graduate of Polymer Science at the University of Stellenbosch, Pretorius first joined what was then known as the Plastics Federation of SA in 1990 as a technical trainer for extrusion courses. In 2000, she was commissioned to gather the statistics for the country’s first plastics recycling survey, but left the corporate environment in 2005 to form her own consultancy, Plastix 911. For the past seventeen years, Pretorius’ knowledge of the industry has proven to be invaluable when it comes to countering the anti-plastics sentiment with facts and figures and developing end-of-life solutions for used plastics.
“The local and international plastics industries have undergone radical changes over the past ten years. More recently, the impact of the Covid pandemic has seen the world shrink even smaller. What we are doing in South Africa has an impact on the other side of the globe, and vice versa. Thanks to online meeting platforms and virtual webinars, it is no longer strange to talk to somebody in Singapore, Canada and France at the same time and to collaborate in real-time to find solutions to the issues at hand. The challenge now lies in ensuring this information is made available so that we can correct the avalanche of misinformation and old data that is available at a click of a button,” Pretorius says.
Technical skills knowledge
Hanekom stresses that Plastics SA is intent on further expanding its technical skills and knowledge base this year in order to offer ongoing technical support to its members and the industry at large. “We will continue to grow the team with a strong focus on research and development and are hoping to attract the most experienced minds to help us grow, expand and support the industry. These new positions will be responsible for gathering relevant data, interpreting the information and turning it into a tool that can be used by role players, policy makers and other interested parties to make informed decisions,” he reveals.
A second area of priority for Plastics SA will be on strengthening the industry’s capacity on trade-related issues. Here they will be looking at appointing an Industry Growth and Trade Specialist who will focus on creating and enabling access to information about the local and international trade environment for the development of sustainable and inclusive growth of the industry. The new incumbent will work closely with the various government departments and institutions to ensure fair trade for materials and goods from, and into, South Africa.
“With its integrated value chain, no plastics role or function can operate independently. We see our new Technical Operations Department as the “missing link” which will benefit the entire industry by creating a credible dashboard with facts, figures and developing a pro-active strategy. International rules and policies, trade agreements and conventions change almost daily, and we believe this new knowledge base will position the South African plastics industry in such a way that we can tap into all the opportunities,” Hanekom concludes.