Keeping our environment clean is a collective responsibility

As the global population increases rapidly, societies around the world need to come up with more efficient solutions to controlling waste. Excess litter and refuse pose a serious threat to the environment. Illegal dumping and littering are two of the major contributors to pollution in our rivers, oceans, public spaces and countryside. Keeping our environment clean is a collective responsibility that we all share.

Every citizen has a role to play in protecting the environment from pollution. We need to eradicate litter and avoid irresponsible waste disposal practices immediately. There is no excuse for plastic waste in the environment – it should always be recycled and thrown away in a responsible manner. Make a point of finding out more about what can and can’t be recycled, and start separating at home. Plastic is a valuable resource that is too important to simply dump and never use again.

We need to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste wherever possible. This will keep litter out of the environment. The South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is concerned about the amount of pollution in our rivers, dams and oceans. Every South African needs to take responsibility for their waste and disposal habits.

Pollution threatens our food security

The rivers, oceans and groundwater in South Africa are not the only environmental features that are threatened by excess waste and pollution. Our farmland and soils are also at risk. Researchers believe that 61% of South Africa’s arable land has been degraded due to pollution. Food security is already a concern for South Africa as the agricultural sector works hard to keep up with the ever-increasing food demands of our growing population.

Clean farmlands and healthy soils are vital for a thriving society. The beauty of nature is that it can self-heal if it is kept free from pollution and contaminants. Our soils will slowly regenerate nutrients if we avoid illegal dumping of chemical waste and littering of household refuse. South Africa’s wetlands are an example of a natural filter that can provide a sustainable source of clean groundwater, yet these are often used as illegal dumping grounds for a variety of waste materials.

What does environmental rehabilitation cost?

Keeping our environment clean and healthy is inexpensive, but rehabilitating pollution affected areas will cost the taxpayer millions. The Water Research Commission (WRC) has been investigating the cost of environmental rehabilitation. Their research shows that cleaning and restoring a 125-hectare (1.25 square kilometre) wetland costs around R1.7-million.

A wetland of this area can purify enough water to save the country R130-million in purification costs. This can benefit society and businesses, such as mines, that require pure water for their survival. The savings far outweigh the costs of rehabilitation, but we should not let our natural spaces be contaminated in the first place.

Waste eradication is a collective responsibility that needs to be prioritised. Government, businesses and citizens can work together to keep our environment free from litter and pollution. These are some of the leading threats to the South African environment at the moment. A healthy environment will benefit society in infinite ways, so we all need to play our part in responsible waste disposal. Find out more about how you can make a difference by visiting 


Plastics SA represents all sectors of the South African plastics industry. ​Together with our associations, we play an active role in the growth and development of the industry and strive to address plastics related issues, influence role-players and make plastics the material of choice.

​Plastics SA has been mandated to ensure a vibrant and sustainable plastics industry in South Africa. The plastics sector is uniquely placed to meet the needs of a sustainable society and to deliver solutions to many challenges such as recycling, climate change, water scarcity, resource usage and energy recovery.

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