plastic and trade in A

Plastics and trade in Southern Africa

Sun Plastics is proudly African; with ties to manufacturing in several Southern African countries, we strive to satisfy the needs of our local markets. With the factory based in Botswana – the heart of Southern Africa – single and co-extruded flexible packaging are easily accessible to our neighbouring countries.  We believe that local production and trade is key to driving economic development, expertise in manufacturing, and waste management in the region.

The International Context

The international trade of plastic products is considerable. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (4), plastics trade would be the 4th largest exporter in the world if it were its own country.

“It would take 18.4 million trucks, each carrying 20 tons, to deliver the 369 million metric tons of plastics exported in 2021. The queue of trucks would wrap around the globe 13 times” (4).

As shocking as it sounds, this does not only constitute the trade of virgin plastics/finished goods. Due to global inequality, a significant percentage of plastic waste is exported as well. In fact, developed countries are responsible for 80% of the global waste trade, which ends up in developing countries who are unable to manage this waste appropriately (4). However, if each country was responsible for processing their own waste, then there might be a shift towards more efficient production, reduced consumption, as well as improved waste management.

The Local Context

In South Africa, the plastics’ industry is predominantly focussed on the packaging sector. According to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (2), plastic packaging accounts for 52% of the local market, but there is still a short supply of polyethylene blends such as PE-LD, PE-LLD and PE-HD. The DTIC also reports a trade deficit, which includes low value plastic imports as well as the importation of finished goods that have the same construction as goods that are exported. While we rely heavily on cheap imports, we stifle the opportunity for domestic growth of the plastics manufacturing sector.

Two of the five key areas for growth (2) can be addressed by Sun Plastics: food packaging and medical products. With capabilities for both mono-layer and coextruded barrier films, Sun Plastics has the expertise and technology to target these areas effectively. In addition, we are a level 2 contributor to B- BBEE and hold an ‘A-rating’ for BRC accreditation. Therefore, our areas of expertise can help develop 2 areas of growth in the packaging sector, our business activities and management structure have a positive effect on socio-economic indicators, and we have yearly audits to ensure our production methods meet international standards.

Certification is based on the following:

Manufacturing of flexible laminates using PE, PA, APPEEL, BOPP (transparent, metallized, pearlized), PET (transparent, metallized), CPP, aluminium foil by blown film extrusion (7 layer), Printing (CI Flexography), Solvent Less Lamination, Slitting in rolls, bags and pouch and shrink films using PE by blown film extrusion (7 layer) for use in food and non-food applications.

When we say ‘local’, we mean local to the region as sourcing material from Botswana is very different to imports from overseas. Our market research shows that the main overseas sources are Israel, Turkey, China, and Russia; the minimum distance would be at least 10 000km. However, Gaborone’s link to several major cities in Southern Africa is a lot shorter:

  • Johannesburg, South Africa – 370km
  • Windhoek, Namibia – 1100km
  • Harare, Zimbabwe – 1070km
  • Maputo, Mozambique – 890km

The benefits are not based on distance and carbon footprint alone. Being members of the Southern African Development Community (3) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (1) means that there are more incentives for localised trade, such as reduced trade barriers, regional integration, and sustainable development.

For all your biodegradable plastic packaging solutions for your business or personal use, get in touch with Sun Plastics. We have a wide range of sustainable packaging solutions to suit your needs. Contact us today.


1. Africa Business. (2017). What you need to know about the African Continental Free Trade Area.

2. Department: Trade, Industry and Competition Republic of South Africa. (n.d.). Plastics.

3. Southern African Development Community. (n.d.). The main aim is to achieve development, peace and security, and economic growth, to alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the people of South Africa.

4. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. (2022). Global plastics trade hits record $1.2 trillion.