Degradable plastics claims must be verified, SABS warms manufacturers

SOUTH AFRICA – National verification and standards organization, the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has warned against vague claims that plastics are environment-friendly or nonpolluting.

SABS says manufacturers that wish to claim their plastic packaging is degradable need to subject the packaging to the relevant testing and certification requirements of the newly published South African National Standard (SANS) 1728.

The SANS 1728 sets out the requirements for the marking and identification of degradable plastics. Degradable plastics include, but are not limited to, biodegradable, compostable, oxo-biodegradable and water-soluble plastics.

Additionally, the national standard advises consumers to recognize the correct markings and to be aware that any product that claims to have degradable plastic packaging needs to be verified according to the standard, which is aligned with global requirements.

SABS acting CEO Dr. Sadhvir Bissoon said: “Vague environmental claims such as environmentally safe, environment-friendly, Earth-friendly, nonpolluting, green, ozone-friendly or plastic free, among others, are specifically cautioned against in SANS 1728.

“Currently, in South Africa, there are no products that have been certified by the SABS as compliant or meeting the requirements of SANS 1728, and consumers are urged to be vigilant when purchasing plastic products that make unverified claims of being degradable, environment-friendly or plastic free.

“Manufacturers need to ensure they have verified the type of plastic in their packaging before they can make any claims about their products.”

SANS 1728 requires that the plastic material used in the packaging must be noted on the packaging, using a material identification code from one to seven and contained in a triangle.

The number one contained in a triangle denotes polyethylene terephthalate, two for high-density polyethylene, three for polyvinyl chloride, four for low-density polyethylene (PE-LD), five for polypropylene, six for polystyrene, and seven for all other materials, such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polylactic acid (PLA) and styrene-acrylonitrile resin.

“Should the plastic packaging be of a degradable nature, it will be indicated below the triangle, such as a triangle containing the number seven with PLA Compostable written below, or a triangle containing a four with PE-LD Oxo-biodegradable written below,” the SABS highlights.

The new standards come at a time when South Africa generates 2.4 million tonnes a year of plastic waste, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

This translates to about 41 kg of plastic waste a year generated by each South African, and about 14% of this is recycled.

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