SOUTH AFRICA – Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, Barbara Creecy has affirmed the government’s strides in tackling plastic pollution, emphasizing concrete advancements during the South African Plastic Pact CEO Engagement Breakfast in Cape Town.
The government attributes this progress to voluntary initiatives initiated for the local plastics industry and enhanced household and community waste disposal systems.
Creecy remarked, “Through this approach, I am pleased to announce that the SA Plastic Pact industry partners have pinpointed and committed to eliminating unnecessary and problematic plastic products, ensuring that all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable, or compostable, achieving a 70% effective recycling rate of plastic packaging, and incorporating an average of 30% post-consumer recycled content in plastic packaging.”
South African industry partners initially joined the Plastic Pact in 2020. Concurrently, in the same year, the government adopted the National Waste Management Strategy, focusing on three core strategies.
These encompass fortified municipal waste management services to prevent plastic leakage into the environment, heightened diversion of waste from landfills, and public engagement through awareness campaigns and clean-up drives.
In alignment with these goals, the South African government implemented the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Regulations in 2020, mandating the establishment of EPR schemes for plastic packaging and other prioritized products.
This concerted effort in the circular economy led to the inception of five registered EPS schemes, bolstering plastic waste collection and recycling endeavors.
Creecy elaborated that the EPR Regulations primarily target product design, considering crucial environmental aspects and presently encompass paper, packaging, and select single-use products.
These initiatives have effectively eliminated 368,600 tonnes of plastic waste from the environment, supporting an estimated 60,000 to 90,000 waste reclaimers while generating 7,500 formal job opportunities.
Earlier this year, the South African government also imposed minimum standards mandating a 50% recycled content in the design of plastic carrier bags.
The overarching objective aims for a complete transition to using 100% recycled content in plastic carrier bags and black refuse bags by 2027.
Acknowledging the industry’s concerns regarding illegal dumping’s contribution to plastic leakage into the environment, the government recently initiated the Municipal Cleaning and Greening program.
In collaboration with provinces and municipalities, this program aims to clear 7,251 illegal dump sites, creating over 37,000 work opportunities within our public works initiative.
As of September 30 this year, South Africa successfully cleared 1,299 or nineteen percent of these sites.
“I am confident that by intensifying the cleaning program, we will clear 100% of the identified hotspots by the middle of next year. The workers engage in daily cleaning activities while simultaneously educating their communities on responsible waste disposal practices,” concluded Creecy.