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Plastic Sector Master Plan on Track

November 13, 2020

Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

Steps are being taken to finalise the Plastic Sector Master Plan.

The environment, forestry and fisheries minister, Barbara Creecy, confirmed this during an address at the Plastic Colloquium Feedback Session.

The minister added that key stakeholders are involved as part of a social compact aimed at supporting the long-term growth, development and sustainability of the plastics sector.

The First Plastic Colloquium was held in November 2019.

According to the minister, one of the themes highlighted in the Draft Plastics Master Plan “revolves around plastic sustainability and circularity of the economy where waste is neither landfilled nor leaks into environment but it is recycled and recovered”.

The Plastics Master Plan recognizes the importance of the circular economy in reducing the negative impact of plastic waste on South Africa.

“The Master Plan makes use of industrial policy to address plastic pollution as part of sustainable consumption and production and supports the sustained growth of the secondary materials economy.”

The minister emphasized that the circular economy approach is also contained in proposed amendments to the Plastic Bag Regulations recently published for comment.

The intention to amend the regulations was published in Gazette 43601 on 7 August 2020.

The draft amendments flow from the review of all policies affecting plastic bags in the country.

The draft amendments call for the prohibition of the manufacture, trade and distribution of domestically produced and imported plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags that do not meet outlined specifications for use within South Africa.

The minister pointed out that, in drawing up the draft regulations, the department and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research conducted studies to inform the evidence-based policy approach that all plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags will be made from a minimum of 50% post-consumer recyclate from 2023 increasing to 100% by 2027.

The minister called for a common road map to deal with plastic waste that will “move isolated areas of good practice to a nation-wide solution to environmental pollution and resource use”.

Suggested focus areas include working with local government to improve household waste collection and taking firm decisions regarding the roles of household separation and reclaimers; doing much more to educate communities about the dangers of plastic waste in the environment and the role they can play in preventing it; implementing a programme across the country to clean up water sources, wetlands and estuaries and preventing plastic pollution from entering the sea; removing a range of single use plastics from production and consumption processes and creating a sustainable market for recycled plastics.

In a statement, the department highlighted the recent publication of the Extended Producer Responsibility requirements for the paper, packaging and some single use product sectors, as well as the lighting sector and the electrical and electronic equipment industry.

The regulations call on the sectors to register their plans to manage waste post the consumer stage of a product’s life cycle with the department.

According to the department, the regulations will make a “significant contribution in the diversion of waste from landfill, thereby increasing the recycling rate to achieve the objectives of the National Waste Management Strategy”.