Could this be the last straw?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says the department is looking at the possibility of reviewing legislation with a view of phasing out harmful plastic products like straws.

Briefing the media ahead of participating in the department’s Budget Vote debate on Wednesday afternoon, the Minister said the possible review would look at plastic products that are seen to be harmful to the environment.

“Second issue about legislation on possibly banning the plastic bags, straws and so on … it is possible. There are some plastics that are really not helpful.

Plastic straws is one of them. It is highly possible that when it comes to that review, we will certainly say that.

“Also just the use of plastic. We agreed as a country that we will just use the plastics that will continue to be manufactured. The thickness thereof would be such that the plastic bags are usable again and again.”

Nosipho Ngcaba, the department’s Director-General, said straws posed a threat to the marine environment.

“For sea-based mammals, like sharks, we already know that straws are a big problem and they cause a threat to our marine mammals and certainly we would look at various other products that may have to be phased out in our economy while we consider a replacement but it is going to take a lot of awareness by citizens. When you go to a restaurant and you are given a straw, you should be able to say no, I will use a glass.”

New campaign against plastic pollution

Tabling her Budget Vote speech at the National Assembly later in the day,

Molewa said the department remained committed to minimising plastic pollution.

She said in-line with resolutions taken at the UN General Assembly and UN Environmental Assembly respectively, the department has this year conducted a Plastic Material Study in collaboration with industry, the South African Bureau of Standards, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, the National Treasury and the Department of Health. 

“We are consulting with the cosmetics industry to phase out the use of micro beads in cosmetics.

“The department, together with the Department of Trade and Industry [and its agencies SABS and NRCS) and National Treasury will also be reviewing the impact of the implementation of the plastic bag policies,” she said.

The Minister said, meanwhile, that in response to the Presidential THUMA-MINA Initiative, the department will be launching the Keep South Africa Clean campaign in a bid to mobilize every citizen to become environmentally conscious.

“We want to see a South Africa free of litter and illegal dumping. The main purpose of this campaign is to change attitudes and behaviour towards waste - and enable people to take responsibility for keeping their communities clean,” she said.

Government turning tide against rhino poaching

Molewa said government was turning the tide against rhino poaching.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that we are turning the tide on the scourge of rhino poaching.

“The number of rhinos poached last year was down to 1028 from 1054 the previous year.

“We attribute this decline to the multifaceted interventions that we are deploying,” she said.

Molewa extended her appreciation to rangers who patrol national parks in a bid to curb the rhino poaching practice, and said by doing so, they are safeguarding the country’s natural heritage for current and future generations. 

“Our efforts will be further supported through the new programme with a budget of US$4.86 million that has been approved by the Global Environment Facility 6th replenishment.

“In addition, we have recently successfully translocated six black rhinos to the Republic of Chad as part of our range expansion strategy.

“This translocation was achieved through a collaboration between the Department of Environmental Affairs, the Government of Chad, SA National Parks and the African Parks Foundation,” she said. –