Beer industry 'might switch to plastic'

South Africa’s listed plastic packaging group Astrapak says that parts of the beer industry might switch to plastic packaging in the next five to 10 years as polyethyline-terephthalate technology improves.

Taking the media on a tour of the group’s plants in Johannesburg, CEO Ray Crewe-Brown on Monday said that if the plastic industry can manage to come up with a technology that will enable the shelf life of beer in plastic to stretch to 24 months, then some parts of the beer industry might switch to plastic packaging.

Crew-Brown said the group had no plans as yet to expand in Africa, but it is looking closely at opportunities on the continent.

He said it is important for the company to choose carefully where it wants to expand and invest in Africa.

“We have a plant in Mauritius at the moment and we are looking at places like Nigeria and other African countries for opportunities to expand. If we are going to put money in any country in Africa, it must make business sense to us,” Crewe-Brown said.

Astrapak, which has 28 plants across the country, buys the bulk of its materials locally and sources some internationally.

Asked what the group is doing about littering from plastic, Crewe-Brown said the problem of littering has more to do with people’s attitudes than anything else.

“Littering is not a plastic problem. I think we need to start educating people about a clean environment and change their attitude towards littering,” he said.

He added that the group generally recycles all of its material.

Astrapak last year alone experienced between 4% and 6% packaging volume growth.

Crewe-Brown said the group will not move into glass packaging any time soon.

“Look, I think plastic packaging is on the whole environmentally friendly and clean.
On the other hand, the process of making glass is not environmentally safe—but once it has been produced, it is environmentally friendly.”

The group currently employs in excess of 3 000 people and operates nationally through three divisions, namely films, rigids and flexibles.

These businesses supply specialised plastic packaging to the food, beverage, confectionery, fruit, petrochemical, industrial and general merchandise markets.

The operations are focused in specific areas, from high-volume, low-cost producers to high-tech specialised companies.

“The primary objective of the group is to produce technologically advanced packaging and services to customers, in order to achieve superior growth in earnings and value for shareholders,” he said.—I-Net Bridge

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