The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, highlighted substantial strides against plastic pollution in South Africa. Initiatives, blending voluntary industry measures, improved waste management, and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) plans, showcase noteworthy progress.
Speaking at the South African Plastic CEO Engagement Breakfast in Cape Town, Creecy emphasized the significance of the SA Plastic Pact. The pact has identified problematic plastic products and pledged to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable. It aims to achieve a 70% effective recycling rate and incorporate 30% post-consumer recycled content in plastic packaging.
The National Waste Management Strategy, adopted in 2020, stands as a pivotal guidepost. It emphasizes pillars such as reinforcing municipal waste management services to prevent plastic leakage into the environment, diverting waste from landfills through EPR schemes, and conducting public awareness campaigns to remove plastic waste from vital ecosystems.
Creecy stressed the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations, advocating for schemes in various sectors, including plastic packaging and electronic equipment. This move has fostered the establishment of five producer schemes supporting plastic waste collection and recycling. The objective is to drive product design to factor in environmental concerns, currently focused on paper, packaging, single-use products, lighting, and electronic items.
These initiatives collectively eliminated 368,600 tons of plastic waste, bolstered the livelihoods of 60,000 to 90,000 waste reclaimers, and generated 7,500 formal jobs. The government also introduced regulations mandating a minimum of 50% recycled content in plastic carrier bags by 2023 and aiming for complete production from 100% recycled material by 2027.
Recognizing the gravity of illegal dumping’s impact on plastic pollution, the government launched the Municipal Cleaning and Greening program. This collaborative effort aims to clear illegal dump sites and create over 37,000 work opportunities. Moreover, the Top 40 program, utilizing public-private partnerships, targets improved compliance at 40 municipal landfills.
Infrastructure South Africa drives the public-private partnership model for landfill compliance. Collaborating with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and National Treasury, the revised Municipal Infrastructure Grant Policy enables municipalities to enhance waste collection and landfill management.
Significant strides were noted, with over 1,299 sites cleared by September. The ongoing commitment intends to clear all identified hotspots by the middle of the following year, engaging workers in daily cleaning and community education initiatives for responsible waste disposal.
The government’s dedication to combating plastic pollution in South Africa through multifaceted strategies underscores a commitment to a sustainable environment and economy. Minister Creecy’s comprehensive report reveals promising progress and a concerted effort toward a cleaner, more eco-conscious nation.