In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish. To coincide with the conference Towards Zero Plastics to the Seas of Africa (, Innovate UK sees an opportunity to enhance UK business collaboration with partners in South Africa to address this global challenge and accelerate the drive to a circular economy.

Why South Africa 
With a population of c60million, an established plastic packaging production and treatment sector and approximately 800,000 tonnes per annum of mismanaged waste plastic, South Africa has the scale and infrastructure to benefit from exploiting innovative solutions for plastic waste. Additionally, South Africa has a well established and highly active informal waste sector, reported to contribute between 80% and 90% of plastic packaging for recycling.  

In 2019, virgin polymers made up 82% of polymer consumption. However, implementation of the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme in 2021 will drive market demand for good quality recyclate and collected recyclables. Disruptive new business models such as reuse and refill systems are growing. South Africa has shown it is ready to embrace new approaches to reducing plastic packaging waste.  

The South African Plastics Pact ( was established in January 2020 with support from WRAP. Over 40 major business and organisations members across the value chain, including Coca Cola, Unilever and Danone have signed up to a joint set of ambitious Plastic Pact targets and published a Roadmap (see link) to drive change by 2025.

As such, there are various opportunities for UK businesses to engage with stakeholders across the value chain to collaborate on solutions for a well integrated formal and informal circular plastics economy, generating high quality, valuable plastic material in South Africa.   

Focus Areas:

We welcome applications from businesses that focus on, but are not limited to: 

Flexible film packs including small formats
  • Advancing refill/reuse solutions that eliminate the use of small format sachets/packs.
  • Design solutions to ensure recyclability
  • Innovations that reduce the need for multilayer laminated packs e.g., monolayer materials to replace multilayer materials.
  • New, sustainable models for the collection, sorting and recycling of flexible packaging and small format packs and sachets.
 Reusable packaging and new business models
  • New reusable packaging design solutions to replace non-recyclable or single use packs, with a focus in urban areas.
Collecting, cleaning, decontaminating, sorting, separating
  • New technology or innovations to support the informal waste sector with focus on transparent pricing, traceability and inclusion.
  • Technology to reduce contamination, sorting, separation or recycling for rigid plastic.