The plastics and packaging industries of South Africa welcomed the announcement made by MsBarbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) to scrap the existing Section 28 plan for developing an Industry Waste Management Plan(IndWMP) for the paper and packaging industry.
Although the development of this plan has already been more than three years in the making, Minister Creecy announced in December that she would be starting an entirely new process under Section 18, as this would allow for an industry-managed plan as opposed to a government-managed plan.
Admitting that the Minister’s announcement came as a surprise, Shabeer Jhetam, Executive Director of Packaging SA, said that they welcomed theMinister’s insight and decision.
“Despite the fact that a considerable amount of time, money and effort have been invested to prepare and submit our Federation of Plans which represented the entire packaging industry, we believe the Minister has made the right decision.
Through our engagements with her over the past few months, we were able to introduce her to the excellent work done by the various packaging streams through their various producer responsibility organisations.”
These organisations are all industry-funded and managed. They are focussed on growing the collection and recycling of the various packaging streams in order to demonstrate their members’ commitment to Extended ProducerResponsibility (EPR).
“As a result of their consistent and concerted efforts SouthAfrica has managed to grow its recycling figures on a yearly basis over the past 10 years to become one of the world leaders in mechanical recycling.
We are sending less material to landfill thanks to light-weighting and progress in developing a circular economy for each industry. A government-managed plan would have had the potential of nullifying these achievements and making it more difficult for these organisations to access the funds needed to fulfil their mandates,” he says.
Commenting on behalf of the plastics industry, Plastics|SA’sExecutive Director Anton Hanekom said they too were relieved to learn of theMinister’s decision to develop a new plan, in close consultation with industry representatives.
“We have always advocated for an industry-managed plan where the producers of packaging materials are held responsible for managing their waste through belonging to industry bodies that represent their interests and drive their own recycling and collection efforts.
The failure of previous initiatives such as Buyisa e-Bag and Redisa triggered serious warning bells for us and highlighted the need for proper governance, transparency and credibility.
For this reason, we agree that the industry be left in charge of their own funds and projects, albeit with very close cooperation and direct accountability toGovernment,” Anton says.
Plastic consumption is growing worldwide by up to 8% a year. Only 0.5%of all plastic is produced in South Africa, but it still represents about 1.5million tons a year, according to a report from a comprehensive investigation into the plastics industry that was launched by the Department of Environment,Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) in 2017.
One of the biggest challenges is packaging. Just more than half (53%) of the plastic processed in South Africa is used for packaging, says the report, which is called Plastics Material Flow and End of Life Management in SouthAfrica.
The department’s research shows that an integrated regulatory approach across the lifetime of plastics gives the best results when it comes to reducing consumption and encouraging recycling.
Government wants to see that brands take greater responsibility for the recyclability of their packaging and consumers can also be empowered if there are labels on products that clearly indicate what is actually recycled in SouthAfrica.
The sorting of waste for recycling at home and at businesses is one of the most important steps for successful recycling worldwide.
Information on how many South Africans are involved in this is limited, but data that the department was able to gather showed that Cape Town was far ahead of the rest of the country.
Up to 60% of households in Cape Town that have access to a disposal service sort their waste into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. In Knysna and Over strand, about 55% of households make this effort. In comparison, only 18% of households in Johannesburg do this.
Legislation and regulations already exist regarding how to deal with local waste, but many are hampered by a shortage of resources.
Government is trying to find ways to overcome this, the report says.
Meanwhile, there will always be plastic that cannot be recycled,“therefore, the idea of plastic as an energy source should not be overlooked.International research shows that the most environmentally friendly solution for some types of plastic is to use it as an energy source.”
The report recommends that further research be conducted to use this plastic for fuel for drying ovens in which bricks and cement are dried, for example.
“Importantly, the global plastic waste crisis challenges the take-make-use-dispose approach to production and consumption.
There is no waste in a circular economy – when we have finished with something, it becomes the raw material for something else.”
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