SA plastics industry’sleading light joins Plastics SA
Doyen of the South African plastics industry, Annabe Pretorius, has joined Plastics SA as Executive: Technical Operations. Together with essential staff, her task will be to gather information and turn it into useful tools to assist the plastics industry to become economically and environmentally sustainable.
Annabe’s involvement in the SA plastics industry has spanned more than 40 years and her knowledge of the industry is vast and well respected. SA Polymer Technology spoke to her to find out more about the woman behind the position, and what she hopes to achieve.
Your career has been interesting and diverse; please tell us more about it.
After finding out by accident in my Home Studies subject at school that one can make plastic fibres in a factory way better than merino sheep take to grow their wool in 24 months, I enrolled for Polymer Science at Stellenbosch University straight after matric in the early 80s.
My first job was in a blue-skies environment at the CSIR and from there making industrial explosives at AECI in Modderfontein. My main task was to find ways of manufacturing explosives quicker, safer and better. The combined laboratory experience at CSIR and the hands-on manufacturing at AECI made me hungry for the plastics industry in its entirety – the full value chain.
I joined the Plastics Federation of SA (precursor to Plastics SA) in 1990 as a technical trainer for extrusion courses. Spending 7 to 10 days in the plastics factories was complete bliss. During the training sessions I was engaging with operators and shop floor supervisors and after hours I engaged with the management team to initially learn more about their processes and challenges, and in later years, sharing ideas on optimisation. I was constantly amending training programmes to suit the needs from the manufacturing industry.
In 2000, I was commissioned to gather the statistics for plastics recycling in South Africa. As with my training experience, I went all in to understand the value chain, the challenges and opportunities. A second one was done in 2006 on the previous year’s figures.
After years of being single and independent, I married Frik in 2001 and became a first-time mother in 2005. Having a husband and a cute little boy and contracting rheumatoid arthritis at the same time was just a bit much, and after a short period at the Plastics Convertors Association I started Plastix 911. Contract training for the Plastics Federation and a three-day per month service agreement with the plastics recyclers paid for the water and lights and I could continue putting my nose in other plastics people’s businesses.
The anti-plastic sentiment started to gain momentum and the need for facts and figures on plastics and its end of (first) life solutions provided enough stimulation (and income) for the next 15-plus years. My love for people, the environment, manufacturing and technical challenges kept me motivated and always hungry for ways to make things quicker, safer and better.
What will your new role with Plastics SA entail?
Plastics SA represents the complete plastics value chain and needs to have a credible dashboard with facts and figures to support the plastics industry, to assist the policy makers in their decision-making process and to help consumers and brand owners to find information. The Technical Operations department is brand new and will in essence stand on two legs: Research and Knowledge on the one side and Trade related issues on the other side.
Research and Knowledge need to gather the information that is out there, and then collate and interpret it to provide the tools for policy- and decision-makers to take informed decisions. The Trade side will work closely with the various government departments and institutions to ensure fair trade for materials and goods from, and into, South Africa. International rules and policies, trade agreements and conventions change daily and the South African plastics industry is not tapping into all the opportunities present.
In essence my position, Executive: Technical Operations, together with essential staff, will gather information and turn it into useful tools to assist the plastics industry to be economically and environmentally sustainable.
Do you hope to help with the transformation and progress of the industry, and if so, how?
The Plastics Master Plan, under the auspices of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, captured the six pillars that need to be developed to ensure transformation and progress in the plastics industry. The newly created Technical Operations department at Plastics SA will provide the tools for that.
What are the major challenges in your opinion facing the SA plastics industry today?
The continuing anti-plastic pressure has resulted in plastics companies assuming a very low profile – just continuing day-to-day without medium and long-term visions. Consequently there is very little, if any, excitement and motivation to develop and grow. It is as if plastics companies in SA have lost their passion and energy.
What in your opinion are the main opportunities the SA plastics industry faces?
Manufacturing needs to think outside the box, gather support from each other, and collaborate with like-minded companies and individuals to tap into existing strengths, develop new skills and plan for success and growth.
What would you like to see the SA plastics industry achieve in the short and long term?
The SA plastics industry needs to engage circular economic principles, take responsibility for its actions and fight for what it believes in. Plastic is a fantastic material and we allow other people, organisations, institutions and the likes, make decisions impacting our industry. Take ownership and run!
If there was just one message you would like the SA plastics industry to heed, what would it be?
Have the correct facts; grab the opportunities and plan for success.
Fun info about Annabe
Favourite food? Comfort food like my mother used to make…
Reading right now? Relaxing animal stories on my Kindle, in-between all the research papers and reports coming my way.
Last good movie you watched? “What a Wonderful Life” – a black and white feel-good Christmas movie from some time in the 40s.
Who (dead or alive) has inspired you the most? Darryl Thysse – my first manager at AECI. Be the best and stop looking for reasons why it can’t or won’t work. Run till you hit the wall; don’t look for the obstacles…
Where would you like to go on holiday? The mountains or coast – as long as there is shade and water and not many people – and preferably no Wi-Fi or cell phone signal. Local is great. I love the variety in South Africa.
If you could take only one person to a deserted island for a week, who would it be? The father of the Swiss family Robinson – nothing could dissuade this guy and he always had a way out.
- Annabe Pretorius can be contacted at email: email@example.com