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.

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