Beating plastic pollution

Monday, June 5, 2023

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has called on all citizens to find creative and innovative ways to remove plastic pollution from communities in an effort to protect the environment.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), in South Africa, a little over 2.5 million tons of plastic are produced annually. 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.

“Urgent action is required to combat plastic pollution and its detrimental impacts on human health, the economy and the environment. The smallest act of picking up litter in your neighbourhood could be the start of something amazing in your country,” Creecy said on Monday.

The Minister made these remarks during the commemorations of World Environment Day (WED) in Cape Town after visiting two recycling plants that are supported through Producer Responsibility Organisations to gain insights into the roles the Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes are playing in plastic recycling.

The Minister reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to developing an international, legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, by the end of 2024.

“In my view, such an international legally binding agreement aims to bring about greater accountability, cooperation and innovation between government, industry, extended producer schemes and waste reclaimers to address the plastic pollution problem.

"In South Africa, the negotiating process is already bringing about greater agreement collaboration between all stakeholders as they work to identify achievable goals to ensure plastic waste and pollution is effectively addressed,” Creecy said.

South Africa is faced with significant waste management challenges. These include poor landfill practices and sporadic household waste collection, as well as unacceptable levels of illegal dumping in many parts of the country.

“Our Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for paper and packaging have begun the important work of diverting waste from landfill sites. Last year, over one and a half million tons of paper and packing was 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,” the Minister said.

The department’s Recycling Enterprise Support Programme has in the past six years supported 56 start-ups and emerging Small, Medium and Micro. Enterprises (SMMEs) and cooperatives operating within the waste sector, providing more than R300 million in financial support, creating 1 558 jobs and diverting over 200 000 tonnes of waste from landfills.

“To support municipalities, our department will focus on improving cleanliness in other provincial capitals, as part of the re-invigorated Presidential Good Green Deeds programme. Here in the Western Cape, we will be focusing 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.

“Through the Expanded Public Works Programme, our department will offer work opportunities to 2 000 women, youth and persons with disabilities per province to 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,” Creecy said.

These efforts are being complimented by the 32 waste enterprises that have been supported to increase recycling of construction and demolition waste, plastic, packaging, and other waste streams.

This year, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is once again 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 by observing World Environment Day under the theme, 'Beat Plastic Pollution'. –