Chief Executives and Management of WWF,
Ellen MacArthur Foundation,
South Africa Plastic Recycling Organisation (SAPRO)
Consumer Goods Council of South Africa and other private companies and SMMEs
The leadership and management South African Waste Pickers Association, African Reclaimers
Association and other Civil Society Organisations
Members of Academia and Research Organisations
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Ladies and Gentlemen, we would like to commend the WWF and its partners for the incredible effort in bringing relevant stakeholders on board to find sustainable solutions to the plastic waste issues in South Africa. Allow the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to send apologies on behalf of Minister Barbara Creecy, who is unable to join us today due to the Cabinet Lekgotla which is currently underway in the city of Tshwane. The Minister has asked me to convey her support for this initiative, and to share this message with you.
The Department acknowledges the growing attention being placed on plastics, and the efforts that are being undertaken by the private sector, government, civil society and academia to come up with innovative approaches to tackle the waste management challenges in the country.
I am therefore glad to say that the Department supports the launch of the SA Plastics Pact calling for a common vision to address today’s plastic waste and pollution issues. We all want to see an economy where plastic is valued and beneficiated.
Also a word of appreciation goes to the appointed members of the steering committee who will be coordinating the South Africa Plastic Pact (SAPP) commitments to ensure that its 2025 target is effectively reached.
As you know, plastic has been around since the 1950s and its versatility has ensured its use in almost every aspect of modern life. The proliferation of plastic products has been attributed to the material being waterproof, durable, versatile and cheap.
Plastic products are used by almost every sector of the economy. Various sectors of the global economy benefit from numerous plastic use applications. Projections are that the global plastics economy is growing at a rate of 4% on an annual basis.
The South African economy benefits from the plastics economy. The building and construction, agriculture, automotive, electrical and electronic, mining and engineering sectors all continue to benefit from this thriving plastics economy.
However, plastic pollution has a significant impact on our very important ecosystem services: those crucial services nature provides free of charge. Plastic waste undermines the flood absorption and water storage capacity of our wetlands.
It threatens our oceans, catchments, river systems and estuaries and the crucial services they provide for people and nature.
A more recent 2017 study (by Jambeck et al) goes further to argue plastic waste presents a major socioeconomic development challenge, which affects biodiversity, infrastructure, tourism and fisheries livelihoods.
I would like to mention that last November we hosted a 2day plastic colloquium session in which many of you were present where we had good conversation about plastic and the environment. The colloquium was fully attended by various stakeholders including plastics associations, plastic packaging industries, civil society, NGO’s, waste pickers, recyclers, and representatives from different branches of Government.
The colloquium emphasised the need for us and the rest of the world to work together in finding appropriate solutions on the plastics problem. The colloquium was divided into 6 working groups which are aligned with the objectives of the SA Plastics Pact:
Product standards and certification
Product design, development and innovation
Integration of the informal waste economy
Biodegradable and compostable plastics
Consumer Education and awareness
I am glad to say that the discussion from the colloquium’s working group sessions were fruitful and that we are busy implementing the wayforward with all stakeholders involved. A Plastics Master Plan is being developed with targets, timeframes, actions and specific goals to ensure that we implement the actions we discussed and that everyone responsible for the work is held accountable. There are regular meetings and workshops being held to check progresses and to account for work done.
We acknowledge that there is need to understand more on the value chain dynamics and how to design for the environment viz. to recycle and reuse. This means that there is more work to do for product development, standards, authentication, and development of markets for recyclable goods. I am glad to say that being a member of the SAPP will assist the Department in its efforts to eliminate problematic plastics in the environment.
The SAPP will be a good platform to bring together key stakeholders such as businesses, plastic industries, civil society, NGO’s and Government who will work towards rethinking on the design, use and reuse of plastics to implement locally tailored solutions towards a circular economy for plastics in South Africa.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it must be noted that the Department has always taken plastic pollution seriously. This is demonstrated by our proactive approach we have adopted to all our scientific studies on plastics material flows and our outreach and awareness programmes.
Twenty years ago, we passed the National Environment Management Act (NEMA) and the National Environment Management: Waste Act to provide the necessary legislative framework to prevent and to protect the environment from plastic pollution.
We are busy with initiatives on plastic bag policy assessment, where we want to determine a new policy direction and to inform amendments to existing policy instruments governing the production and sale of plastic carrier bags. We are also assessing the extent of single use plastics waste with a view to propose policy options for addressing its environmental impacts.
The study on the Assessment of Plastic Material Flow and End of Life Management was conducted by the Department in 2017 with the aim to model total plastic flows through the economy to identify where specific challenges lie in terms of plastic disposal to landfill sites and plastic leakage to the environment. The study confirms that packaging constitutes the largest component of singleuse plastic waste that is generated in South Africa.
It is more likely that the generation of singleuse plastic waste in South Africa will increase in line with increases in population growth and urban expansion. The growing middle class is creating large consumer markets for plastic goods, especially singleuse packaging products. The sprawling informal economy has given rise to noncompliant single use plastic carrier bags that easily find their way into the waste stream.
I am sure that working together, we will find the most attractive solutions inherent in the ‘circular economy’ to how we help turn ‘plastic waste into worth’. The circular economy therefore requires integrating the entire product life cycle from raw material extraction, through product design, use and ultimately recovery and recycling or reuse.
Once again, I would like to commend the WWF and its partners for this initiative. This collaborative action is required to be able to change the current plastics system and by joining forces in the SA Plastics Pact, government, businesses and others can tackle problems that they cannot overcome in isolation.
Delivering the SA Plastics Pact targets will be challenging and will require collaboration with organisations within, and outside, the Pact membership. The benefits are significant though and include environmental benefits (less waste, less litter, less pollution), economic benefits (jobs and investment) as well as social benefits (improving lives and community upliftment) all together contributing to sustainable development.
Plastic pollution is both a national as well as a global challenge. The SA Plastics Pact is a national initiative within the Global Plastics Pact Network, and so by collaborating and sharing insights and innovations SA can benefit from, and feed into, the global challenges on plastics.
We view the Plastics Pact, as well as the work my department has been doing with the Plastics Colloquium, as part of a continued conversation regarding the management of plastic waste and the circular economy. We must endeavor to ensure that this conversation leads to concrete actions and policies that address the issue of singleuse plastics.
I thank you
Source: Department of Environmental Affairs