SOUTH AFRICA – Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms. Barbara Creecy, has issued a clarion call for urgent action to combat the escalating plastic pollution crisis.

The call comes as South Africa joins the global community in marking World Environment Day.

Minister Creecy spent the day visiting two recycling plants in Cape Town, Waste Want and CRDC SA RESIN8, both supported by Producer Responsibility Organizations.

These visits provided insights into the role Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes play in plastic recycling.

Waste Want, located in Kraaifontein, employs 200 people and diverts a thousand tonnes of plastic waste from landfills every month.

Meanwhile, CRDC SA RESIN8, situated in the Blackheath industrial area, is a site where plastic is converted into an aggregate modifier for the construction industry.

The company currently processes 450 kg of waste a day and aims to reach 610 tons per month at full production.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), more than 2.5 million tonnes of plastic is produced yearly in South Africa.

 Poor waste management practices mean that as much as half of post-consumer plastic is not properly disposed of and risks leaking into the environment.

Meanwhile, at the 2nd Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC2) on Plastic Pollution in Paris, France, 175 nations, including South Africa, reaffirmed their commitment to developing an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution by the end of 2024.

Minister Creecy highlighted the importance of this international agreement, stating that it aims to foster greater accountability, cooperation, and innovation between government, industry, extended producer schemes, and waste reclaimers to address the plastic pollution problem.

South Africa faces significant waste management challenges, including poor landfill practices, sporadic household waste collection, and high levels of illegal dumping.

The country’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for paper and packaging have begun diverting waste from landfill sites.

Last year, over one and a half million tonnes of paper and packing were diverted from landfill through recycling, recovery, and treatment.

The Department is strengthening compliance and enforcement measures, especially against free riders that undermine the collective efforts to address waste management challenges.

Over the past six years, the Department’s Recycling Enterprise Support Program has supported 56 start-ups and emerging SMMEs and cooperatives within the waste sector, providing more than R300 million in financial support, creating 1558 jobs, and diverting over 200,000 tonnes of waste from landfills.

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