Perspex SA success in upcycling plastic and aluminium layers from post-consumer Tetra Pak cartons

PERSPEX South Africa has successfully assisted in developing a closed loop recycling system in which it recycles the plastics and aluminium in Tetra Pak packaging and extrudes this into sheets of PolyAl that are used to manufacture retail displays.

Tetra Pak has recycled the bioplastic cap (biodegradable) and cardboard (recycled into paper pulp) components of its packaging for several years. However, the polyaluminium component (14% plastic, 5% aluminium) could not be separated and was downcycled into single-use items destined for landfill, like car floor mats, plastic pens, and flooring/decks. They then approached a multinational retail and design company, Barrows, with a view to finding a way to recycle the polyaluminium and use it to fabricate promotional retail display shelves that could be recycled and fabricated again.

And that’s where Perspex SA came into the picture. Barrows partnered with Perspex SA to develop a fully recyclable material fit for this purpose. Partnerships were then forged with a well-known packaging company that was looking for an improved recycling solution for their cartons.


Why Perspex SA?

Perspex SA’s manufacturing facility is based in Port Elizabeth. Adrian Kemp, a director at Perspex SA, says we believe in doing the right thing and therefore recycling has always been an important strategic focus for the organisation.

“At Perspex SA, our purpose is to create value for all stakeholders. Our customers know that we are creatively inspired and solutions driven,” says Kemp. “When we were originally approached by Barrows, we were faced with a very tough scenario. The packaging customer had tried various recycling avenues with the ‘PolyAl’ material but had never succeeded in finding a solution for large volumes of the material. Smaller injection moulding products were successfully done, but no solution met their volume requirements globally.”

Kemp says the brief that Perspex SA was given was to work only with the carton waste, and to produce flat sheets that could be formed into a useful product, both printable and aesthetically pleasing.

“Initially we faced many challenges, including a bad odour during extrusion. After 18 months of trials for different settings, multiple lines and different finishes, we launched PolyAl which is manufactured under license for this specific customer for a 12 month period. We are now manufacturing 10mm thick sheets of PolyAl which Barrows finishes,  forms into flatpack, and assembles into point-of-sale retail displays. These finished retail displays can already be seen in stores around the country”, he adds.

The benefits of the PolyAl display shelving includes the fact that they are reusable and require up to 90% less corrugated board than traditional temporary displays. They are customisable with adjustable shelving, are 20% more cost effective, give a 37% carbon saving, and are fully recyclable into sheets again, with zero waste to landfill.

Kemp says that Perspex SA is also in discussions with the DTI about the recycling technology, with a view to working with them to alleviate South Africa’s waste issues.


More about Perspex SA

Perspex South Africa has been the market leader in the supply of quality Perspex cast acrylic products to Sub-Saharan Africa for over 60 years. The head office located in Johannesburg, South Africa, forms the hub of operations. An extensive national footprint includes sales offices and warehouses in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, which also houses the extrusion manufacturing facility at which the PolyAl sheets are fabricated.

Their comprehensive product range includes Extruded Acrylic, PETG, PC, Multiwall Polycarbonate, Alupanel® and LED solutions, all of which are sourced from reputable international manufacturers, and locally manufactured ABS, Acrylic Capped ABS, HDPE, PP, high impact polystyrene,high density polystyrene, thermoplastic polyurethane and thermoplastic polyolefin.