Creecy’s Crusade: Urgent Call to Combat Plastic Pollution on World Environment Day

Barbara Creecy
  • Minister Barbara Creecy, on World Environment Day, emphasized the urgent need to address plastic pollution due to its harmful impact on human health, the economy, and the environment. She visited two recycling plants in Cape Town to understand the role of Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes in plastic recycling.
  • South Africa, along with 174 other nations, has committed to developing an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution by 2024. The country is also strengthening its waste management practices, with initiatives like the Extended Producer Responsibility schemes and the Recycling Enterprise Support Programme.
  • The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is partnering with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to raise public awareness about the Triple Planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. The Department is also offering work opportunities to women, youth, and persons with disabilities to support the cleaning and greening of provincial capitals.

CAPE TOWN – 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 Organisations. 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 tons of plastic waste from landfills every month. 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.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in South Africa reports that over 2.5 million tons of plastic are produced annually. However, poor waste management practices mean that nearly half of post-consumer plastic is not properly disposed of, posing a significant risk to the environment.

Last week, 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 tons of paper and packing were diverted from landfill through recycling, recovery, and treatment.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is strengthening compliance and enforcement measures, particularly against free riders that undermine collective efforts to address waste management challenges. Over the past six years, the Department’s Recycling Enterprise Support Programme 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.

As part of the re-invigorated Presidential Good Green Deeds programme, the Department will focus on improving cleanliness in other Provincial capitals. In the Western Cape, the focus will be on the broader Cape Flats region, where many formal and informal settlements have inadequate waste removal and plastic leaches into rivers and eventually into the sea.

The Department will offer work opportunities to 2000 women, youth, and persons with disabilities per province through the Expanded Public Works Programme. These individuals will support the cleaning and greening of provincial capitals by assisting in litter picking in prioritised streets, clearing illegal dumps, planting trees, and promoting recycling services.

This year, the Department is partnering with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on World Environment Day to raise public awareness about the Triple Planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.

Minister Creecy concluded her World Environment Day 2023 commemoration with a beach clean-up at Macassar Beach, alongside Dr. Meseret Teklemariam Zemedkun (UNEP – Southern Africa Sub-Regional Office), Dr. Ayodele Odusola (UNDP – Resident Representative), Mr. Nelson Muffuh (The UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa), Cllr Eddie Andrews (Executive Deputy Mayor: City of Cape Town), POLYCO and PETCO.

“Today, we are calling on all citizens to observe this Environment Month by finding creative and innovative ways to remove plastic pollution from our communities. The smallest act of picking up litter in your neighbourhood could be the start of something amazing in our country,” said Minister Creecy.

As South Africa grapples with the plastic pollution crisis, the government’s commitment to tackling this issue is clear. However, it is evident that a collective effort is needed from all stakeholders, including citizens, to ensure a sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

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