Creating a true Circular Economy for plastics packaging

With 59 million people in South Africa, there is enormous pressure to reduce the amount of packaging waste sent to our country’s landfills or which ends up as visible litter in the environment.

For this reason, DFFE implemented the new Section 18 Regulations to the Waste Act on  5 November 2021.

Watch the latest video below.

Reducing the number of plastic PRO’s

In the previous voluntary EPR landscape, South Africa had seven individual Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs) who managed the EPR schemes for the various different packaging streams, namely PETCO, Polyco, the Polystyrene Association, Southern African Vinyls Association, The Glass Recycling Company, Fibre Circle and MetPac-SA.

Polyco and VinylLoop Merger

Under the new mandatory EPR, VinylLoop (SAVA’s EPR division set up to deal with PVC packaging waste) amalgamated with Polyco from the 1st of September 2021.

This merger between Polyco and VinylLoop does not mean that SAVA will cease to exist. As the focus of the new legislation is on packaging waste (of which PVC forms less than 2%) SAVA will continue with its activities and focus on product stewardship, promoting the use of vinyl products and protecting the local markets – the majority of which are in long-term applications such as building, construction, medical applications, footwear and clothing etc.

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Growth in South Africa’s population and increased urbanisation has led to an increase in per capita waste generation. This places stress on current landfills and results in litter in the environment. As a pro-active response to the growing national concern around waste and its impact on society and the environment, South Africa published the Section 18 Regulations to the National Environmental Management: Waste Act on 5 November 2020, which refers to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) aspect of the National Environmental Management Waste Act (NEMWA). The regulations came into effect on 5 May 2021. This new legislation makes EPR mandatory for all producers and importers of packaging. It changes how producers, brand owners, retailers and importers design, make, sell and keep their products in the recycling loop as far as is practicably possible. Any company or brand that makes or imports any form of plastic packaging for distribution is required to pay an EPR fee per tonne. Strict targets have been set by Government, for yearly collection and recycling, that need to be met over the next five years. EPR will see an investment in collection infrastructure. Not only will this provide consumers with more convenient recycling facilities, but a concerted recovery effort at the pre-consumer or post-industrial phase. Intensive consumer awareness campaigns will also help to drive behaviour change. All companies involved in the value chain must work together to ensure that less waste goes to landfill.

Instead of supporting the outdated, linear approach of producing, using and discarding plastic packaging waste that continues to hold value after it has been used, our focus is now on developing a true circular economy within South Africa – where the value of waste is never lost but is kept within the economy by ensuring that these materials are reused and recycled into many new and useful materials. Luckily, South Africa’s plastics industry is well positioned for this next stage of environmental legislation. We have four voluntary, industry-led PRO’s that have been running for many years now and have impressive track-records of collection and recycling successes, namely PETCO for PET, Polyco for polyolefins (PP, HDPE, LDPE/LLDPE and Multi-layer), the Polystyrene Association for polystyrene, Southern African Vinyls Association for PVC. Each of these PROs collect voluntary EPR fees from their members and use the revenue they generate to support the collection, sorting and recycling of recyclable materials by informal waste pickers, small and medium-sized collectors and large-scale mechanical recyclers. The new Section 18 regulations are a welcome step forward towards a more collaborative approach between government and industry. As an industry, we are committed to continue working closely with government as this process unfolds. We urge you to start the process now by engaging with the relevant plastics industry PRO’s. Reporting against the gazetted targets started in Jan 2022.

NEM (National Environmental Management) WASTE ACT SECTION 18


The following are required for producers:

  • Existing producers had to register with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries from 5 May and no later than 5 November 2021 (as per the amended EPR regulations released on 15 January 2021).
  • Join or form an EPR scheme that includes the entire value chain. Be accountable for the operation and performance of an EPR scheme.
  • Pay the appropriate fees to the EPR scheme.
  • Fulfil monitoring and reporting obligations – started  Q1 2022.
Polyco will now be the EPR for polystyrene and vinyls as well.
Tel:  +27 21 276 2096
Tel:  +27 11 615 8875

Other Waste Stream PROs