At the Australian Institute of Packaging’s (AIP) recent biennial National Conference held in Queensland, chief executive officer of MetPac-SA Kishan Singh delivered a speech on South Africa’s thriving metal packaging industry.
Singh said: “The metal packaging industry is poised for growth and is on the cusp of an exciting era as efforts to introduce new technology and improve this packaging material’s environmental credentials are starting to bear fruit.”
Singh was one of the 40 leading international and national experts who were invited to represent the global food, beverage, manufacturing and packaging industries, and use the opportunity to introduce the international audience to the mission and vision of MetPac-SA, the Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) representing the steel, tinplate and aluminium packaging industries in South Africa.
Presenting his paper on global packaging trends, Singh predicted an unprecedented demand for metal and aluminium cans in the years to come. “As the global population continues to grow, so too will the demand increase for packaging that is convenient, prevents food wastage, eases supply chain stresses, but is also recyclable and sustainable. Metal packaging ticks all these boxes,” he said.
Metal packaging equates for 9.2% of the South African packaging market value, which totals approximately R65 billion and 7% of the approximately 3.3 million tons of market volume (ex-converter) in 2016. Whilst seemingly small compared to some of the other packaging streams, MetPac-SA predicts that metal packaging is poised to grow its market share owing to its excellent recovery rate.
“Metal packaging is infinitely recyclable because of its metallurgical chemistry, composed of Iron (Fe) or Aluminium (Al) atoms. When used steel or aluminium cans are recycled, these atoms are reconstituted into their original atomic arrangements, completely renewing the material for use again. It is this criterion, amongst many others, that will continue to hold metal as an extremely viable packaging material into the future. South Africa has one of the highest recovery rates for used metal packaging in the world. We currently sit at around 73%, up from 70% in 2015 (BMI Research Report 2016), with plans to steadily increase our targets in excess of 75% by the year 2021,” Singh revealed.
In an attempt to improve its green credentials, the industry has also made progress in recent years to reduce its environmental footprint by light-weighting its products. This has resulted in metal packaging becoming significantly more competitive and attractive for product designers.
Despite these breakthroughs, however, there are still some challenges being faced by the metal packaging industry in its quest to increase its recovery and recycling rates. These include:
- South Africa’s slow economic growth which results in lower packaging consumption
- Lack of separating recyclable materials at source / low collection and recycling awareness
- Limited access to landfills by waste pickers, resulting in them not getting access to materials
- Long distances between consumption and recycling infrastructure.
“As an industry we are aware of these challenges, but are working on finding workable solutions that will address these issues and improve the recyclability and recovery of metal packaging for years to come. To this end, our Industry Waste Management Plan is currently being drafted with the inputs from industry role players for submission later this year,” Singh said.
Looking at the future, the forecast is that metal packaging will continue to grow its market share through continued innovation. The beverage sector in particular holds exciting opportunities for the sector.
“Metal packaging will adapt and accommodate to the requirements of the modern consumer, through shape, size, functionality and closure changes, and most importantly, by an unwavering industry quest for mass reduction without compromising packaging efficacy. Metal is known to retain internal pressures of carbonated soft drinks far more efficiently than other materials.
“In addition, the closure designs on beverage cans are able to retain internal pressure at almost 100%, enabling longer shelf lives and extended supply chain distances and durations. Given these exciting developments, it is only a matter of time before the metal slice of the pie gradually increases as metal packs become the more preferred choice for supply chain efficiency.”
Current members of MetPac-SA include raw material supplier Hulamin, converters Nampak, PackSolve, Tin Can Man, Coleus and brand owners SAB (Pty), Distell, Heineken, Coca-Cola and Nestlé. MetPac-SA is engaging all other role players in the industry to sign up as members in order for them to truly represent the industry’s views, recommendations and opinions with a unified voice.
Concluded Singh: “Metpac-SA is dedicated to reporting on the actual metal recycling and recovery rates within SA to prove that the metal packaging industry is material and energy efficient and therefore extremely planet friendly. Our vision is to bring together the entire metal packaging value chain in South Africa and to promote the interests and recycling of steel, tin plate and aluminium packaging. We do this by keeping a close eye on local and international legislation that could have an impact on our industry.
“For this reason, we are urging all raw material suppliers, primary packaging converters, fillers / bottlers, retailers as well as brand owners, to sign up as members so that we can have a greater impact and be able to hold our place in the packaging industry in the future.”