Plastic is not just an environmental issue, it is also a socio-economic issue

Plastic has been around since the 1950's. Its versatility has ensured its use in almost every aspect of modern life. Its proliferation has been attributed to the material being water-proof, durable, versatile and cheap. Unsurprisingly plastic products are used by almost every sector of the economy.

Projections are that the global plastics economy is growing at a rate of 4% annually.

The South African economy benefits from this growth: the plastic products industry contributed around R76 billion to the economy in 2016. According to Plastics SA, 60 000 people are employed in the plastics industry of which 47 000 are employed in the plastic products manufacturing sector.

About 53% of South Africa’s total plastics consumption goes into the packaging sector and most of this is for single use packaging applications.

Going forward, an important consideration is how we reduce certain plastics from our value chain, particularly those we term "single use". Another concern is the issue of micro plastics - where end-of-life considerations did not influence product design resulting in products that impact our environment for long periods. Plastic waste has been found to undermine the flood absorption and water storage capacity of our wetlands. It threatens catchments, river systems and estuaries and the crucial services they provide for people and nature.

As the regulator phases out or restricts the use of those materials, there is growing demand for the newcomers on the SA plastics scene - the biodegradable and compostable plastics.

But they also need to be properly researched and understood. And, if they are to have a place in our value chain they need to be regulated with appropriate registration and standards.

Barbara Creecy, Minister: Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

Speaking at the recent Plastic Colloquium held in Gauteng, Minister Barbara Creecy pointed out the important role behaviour change will have in reducing plastic waste...

Those of us who separate our waste at home must wash out containers before we dump them; those of us who like fast food need to demand alternative products to package our burgers, chicken and our coffees; when we shop we must take our recycled shopping bags and not demand new plastics.

Barbara Creecy, Minister: Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is entrusted with a crucial legislative mandate to ensure all citizens within the Republic of South Africa live in a clean and healthy environment and use its resources in a sustainable manner for the benefit of current and future generations. The Department has over the years crafted and amended pieces of legislation in an endeavor to meet legislative requirements. Implementation of environmental programs has been achieved by forging collaborations with stakeholders operating within the environmental sector, other government institutions and NGOs amongst others.

Efforts to discourage and minimise the use of plastics to minimise their effects on the environment and human health are not new in our country.

Barbara Creecy, Minister: Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

An example of a Government educational campaign to reduce single-use plastics in schools.

The recent Plastic Colloquium focussed on research, awareness campaigns, international best practice in tackling plastic waste. Targeting more than 300 delegates, working groups discussed product standards, Product design, Integration of the informal waste economy, Biodegradable and compostable plastics, Infrastructure and Consumer Education & Awareness. It is hoped that the outcomes of the colloquium will assist in guiding projects/ programmes and policy in South Africa.

Read a 702 overview of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy's interview with Azania Mosaka HERE or watch her interview below...


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