Everyone can help reduce plastic use
ERADICATING plastic pollution begins with small, individual consumer actions such as avoiding single-use plastic products and recycling existing plastic products wherever possible.
This is what Dr Edna Molewa, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, is advocating as the international community marks World Environment Day.
This year’s theme is “Beating Plastic Pollution” and governments, industries, communities and individuals are urged to explore sustainable alternatives to urgently reduce the production and excessive use of single-use plastic products.
Molewa reiterated sentiments expressed during her department’s budget vote speech last month, that South Africa was committed to minimising plastic pollution and that the DEA was looking at introducing a raft of measures to curb plastic pollution.
One such measure is phasing out the use of micro-beads in cosmetics. These would be aligned with recommendations of a plastic material flow study undertaken by the department.
In line with resolutions taken at the UN General Assembly and UN Environmental Assembly, the study showed that only 21% of plastic waste was recycled.
The study recommends, among other issues, that plastics must be collected and removed at source.
The departments of Environmental Affairs and Trade and Industry (DTI), as well as the DTI’S agencies – the SA Bureau of Standards (SABS) and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) – as well as the National Treasury will soon be reviewing the implementation and impact of our plastic bag policies.
“Plastic pollution is particularly insidious because once plastics enter the environment, they do not biodegrade, but simply break down into smaller pieces over time,” said Molewa.
“This has a detrimental effect on our environment, more so once this pollution enters our oceans and endangers marine life and fragile marine ecosystems.”
The government remains committed to implementing the recommendations of the plastic material flow study.
To mark World Environment Day, the minister has announced the coming launch of the #THUMAMINA/GREEN/ good/deeds for a clean and beautiful South Africa campaign, in response to the presidential THUMAMINA Initiative.
This campaign aims to change attitudes and behaviour towards waste and the environment in general and to mobilise every citizen to take responsibility for keeping their communities clean.
Molewa has emphasised that the Phakisa waste economy, led by the DEA and the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, has the potential to address inequality, poverty alleviation and create jobs.
In this regard, the DEA manages a number of programmes aimed at waste minimisation through the 4Rs: recovery, reduce, reuse and recycling.
One such programme, in line with the objectives of the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS), is the Recycling Enterprise Support Programme (RESP) which provides grants for projects.
These projects are either start-up or pre-existing enterprises and include buy-back centres, material recovery facilities, construction and demolishing solutions, as well as plastic palletisation plants.
RESP has been allocated R194 million over a three-year period and has already made a material impact to the lives of 12 black-owned and -managed enterprises.
Furthermore, the DEA is conducting a third periodic review of the NWMS.
The review will take into consideration the country’s commitment to waste minimisation; the further development of the circular economy; and consider the capacity or resource implications for the implementation of waste management functions.
“Our constitution undertakes that all South Africans have the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.
“Let us join hands in the drive to reduce not just plastic pollution but all forms of pollution,” said Molewa.
Environmental campaigners collect plastic at Freedom Island in Paranaque, south of Manila, in the Philippines, during the last International Coastal Cleanup Day, which is celebrated every third Saturday of September in more than 100 countries.