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Why recycling is better than banning plastic bags

The calls for national governments to step in and ban plastic bags are growing. South Africa has already begun an inquiry into the impacts of a nationwide ban on plastic shopping bags. Other African countries, such as Botswana and Kenya, have already implemented these bans which include the manufacture, importation and use of plastic shopping bags.

However, a complete ban could have negative effects for the South African economy and the plastics industry, which currently supports over 60 000 livelihoods. Plastics SA believes that a better solution to plastic pollution lies in recycling, rather than a ban. The country is a leader when it comes to recycling.  

Recycling plastic bags is the best solution

The South African government can assist by providing better waste management systems and infrastructure to support recycling. This investment will also boost job opportunities as recycling facilities will be able to expand their intake and require more people to handle the waste. 

Recycling creates employment in a formal and informal capacity, which is beneficial to the South African economy. Improving the collection and recycling of plastics will not only benefit the environment but also the economy. The smaller recycling facilities just need a hand from the government. Citizens can also help by recycling their plastics rather than throwing them away in the waste bin.

Plastic shopping bags do have some advantages

Plastic bags still offer a range of advantages over alternative materials. They are very cheap to produce, which means they save money for consumers and retailers. They also have a lower carbon footprint than cotton and paper alternatives, producing fewer greenhouse gases during the manufacturing process.

When you think of litter, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a plastic bag. They are easily swept away by rains and winds, which makes them a common litter item found in the environment. But this would not be the case if they were all properly disposed of and handled by professional waste management and recycling companies.

The sheer abundance of plastic bags also means that they are a steady source of recyclable material for properly-equipped recycling facilities. This adds further economic benefits to the waste management sector and boosts South Africa’s economy. In a country where tens of thousands of people survive on picking waste and selling it to recycling facilities, plastic bags offer a source of income for many households.

For these reasons, we believe that recycling is still the best solution to tackling plastic waste in the environment. Better waste management strategies and practices will reduce litter, while keeping the economic benefits that plastic shopping bags bring to South Africa. 

These recycled bags can be reintroduced into the packaging stream which will save money and increase their lifespan. The government will need to carefully consider these impacts before making a final decision on the fate of plastic bags.

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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.

For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Plastics industry aims to find solution to pollution

Plastics SA and the entire industry is working hard to find a solution to the problem of excessive plastic waste in the environment. We are working alongside the government and waste management companies to eradicate pollution in our rivers, oceans and public spaces.

We welcome the acknowledgement by the Department of Environmental Affairs that the South African government needs to improve waste management facilities and infrastructure in the country. Most local municipalities are not doing enough to control the current volumes of waste and pollution. This acknowledgement is a step in the right direction for South Africa.

As a representative of the plastics industry, we will continue to voice our concerns over the lack of waste collection services in many small towns across the country. Plastics SA will also continue to push for the removal of plastic debris and waste from our beaches and rivers.

The two best solutions to tackle pollution

The Department of Environmental Affairs identified the five plastic products that are found most often in the environment and oceans. They are cutlery, stirrers, earbuds, straws and polystyrene food containers. Plastics SA agrees that one solution to plastic waste is to develop more environmentally-sound plastic products.

The second solution lies in improving waste collection services and recycling infrastructure in South Africa. If we can stop post-consumer waste from entering the environment, then this will minimise pollution. Ordinary South Africans can also play their part by avoiding illegal dumping and littering.

A ban on plastic products could be detrimental to South Africa

Plastics are highly valuable products and modern life would not be possible without them. We are currently conducting an intricate socio-economic impact assessment to determine the effects of a ban on single-use plastics in South Africa. A decision to outlaw these products is likely to have a negative impact on the industry, its jobs and consumers.

The plastics industry currently provides over 60 000 jobs for South Africans. The Department of Environmental Affairs has assured us that their solution to plastic waste will not lead to job losses or the closure of businesses. We will continue to work with the government to ensure that this promise holds true.

The solution will require input from everyone

Plastics SA has started to work on an industry-led plan to deal with single-use plastic waste. We will work with our representatives and stakeholders to form an initiative to end plastic pollution. This initiative will include government plans and a collaborative development of viable solutions that benefits all of South Africa.

Citizens can help us fight plastic waste by taking part in community clean-up campaigns and actively recycling their household waste. Littering and illegal dumping are two of the major contributors to plastic pollution. We need to raise awareness of these bad waste disposal practices in communities around the country.

Plastics SA will offer its assistance to the government in order to improve knowledge and awareness of pollution in schools, municipalities and communities across South Africa. The problem of plastic waste is a complex one that requires careful consideration of all factors. All stakeholders in the plastics industry must work with the government and society to implement effective solutions to our waste problems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yttc36PNtvA

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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.
For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Plastic bag levy should only be used to fight pollution

Since 2003, the South African government has taxed the use of plastic shopping bags in an effort to discourage consumers from using them. These levies were intended to be used for waste management and environmental initiatives, such as clean-ups and recycling programmes. However, the reality is that very little of these taxes actually go towards fighting pollution.

The government needs to ring-fence the money raised through this plastic bag levy and use it only for its intended purpose – to help clean up South Africa and tackle excess plastic waste in the environment. Plastics SA and the entire industry is working hard to minimise the volume of plastic waste that ends up in the environment. We do not like to see our products washed up on beaches and littering public spaces.

Plastics industry doing its part

“To win the war on plastic pollution, every role-player in the plastics industry needs to confront some hard truths. This includes us as the producers of plastics, but it also includes government and consumers,” says Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.

“From our side, we are willing to make bold and constructive changes to our products. As members of the South African Initiative – an alliance of key members of the full packaging value chain – we are committed to transforming all our products to make them more environmentally-friendly and recyclable,” explains Hanekom. 

“We will also prioritise new scalable technologies within the industry that not only make recycling and recovering plastics easier but also enable the creation of value from all plastics once they have been used. For us to be successful, we need to work closely in partnership with the government. It is, after all, the role of government to provide adequate waste management infrastructure and to correctly incentivise citizens to recycle,” he says.

The government is aware of the pollution problem

The South African government is fully aware of the excessive volumes of pollution. They have shown a willingness to confront these issues and engage with industry stakeholders. “The Department of Environmental Affairs, for example, admitted in Parliament two weeks ago that it had failed to develop competent waste management facilities, let alone recycling infrastructure,” says Hanekom.

The problem with plastic pollution arises from illegal dumping and bad waste disposal practices, combined with inadequate waste collection services. Around the country, consumers resort to dumping their waste because refuse collection services are either unreliable or non-existent.

The government can use a portion of the millions of rands raised through the plastic bag levy to boost waste management infrastructure and improve collection services. “The consequences of our weak waste management infrastructure are not only visible in our rivers and oceans, but also cost the country hundreds of millions of rands when municipalities have to clean up illegal dumping sites,” explains Hanekom.

Plastic bag levy can be put to better use

The taxes on plastic bags should be put to good use in improving infrastructure and service delivery. It could potentially be used to create thousands of jobs in the waste management industry and to safeguard the 100 000 existing jobs that the plastics industry provides.

“To start financing the upgrade of our flawed waste management system, our view is that government must immediately take steps to ring-fence the plastic bag levy that was implemented back in 2003. This levy has increased from 3c per bag in 2003 to 12c in 2018,” states Hanekom.

“The nearly R2-billion that has been raised through the levy so far, should never have been absorbed into the black hole of our national fiscus. Instead, the levy should have been ring-fenced for its intended purpose: to develop better recycling facilities and incentivise sustainable consumer behaviour,” he says.

If used and disposed of correctly, plastic can actually be a highly-valuable material for society. It has a smaller carbon footprint than so-called ‘environmentally-friendly’ alternatives, such as cotton and glass. Plastic is also cheaper to produce and can support increased economic growth through more job opportunities.

“A rational conversation about plastic pollution recognises the positive attributes of plastic and focuses on how to manage plastic waste. The time has come to have that rational conversation, and we look forward to leading the discussion,” concludes Hanekom.

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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.

For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Tax on single-use plastics is not the best solution

During his 2019 Budget Speech, finance minister Tito Mboweni announced an update to existing environmental taxes, including a levy on single-use plastics. While the intention may be good, not all of these taxes are achieving their intended environmental objectives. Taxing single-use plastics is not the best solution to the problem of plastic pollution

A good example of failed objectives is the plastic bag levy that was introduced in 2003. This tax on plastic shopping bags has had little impact on consumer behaviour since it was announced. The Department of Environmental Affairs has acknowledged to the South African Parliament that citizens have continued to use plastic bags despite quadrupling the levy between 2003 and 2018.

This levy has not been ring-fenced for the sole purpose of protecting the environment from plastic pollution. Almost R2-billion has been raised through the plastic bag levy, yet little has been achieved in terms of environmental clean-ups and pollution eradication. A tax on single-use plastics will probably have similar outcomes.

Tax on single-use plastics will not curb pollution

The South African government is currently investigating the opportunity to tax single-use plastic products such as straws, beverage cups, food containers and packaging. However, these taxes may not discourage consumers from purchasing single-use plastics, let alone littering or dumping them after they have used been used.

Plastic SA is committed to tackling plastic pollution and we support any effort to remove plastic waste from the environment. We will work with the government and our industry stakeholders to promote the reuse and recycling of plastic products. It is unacceptable that nearly 8 million tonnes of plastic are currently being washed into the world’s oceans every year.

A tax on single-use plastics will not encourage people to recycle their waste; education and awareness-raising campaigns will. South Africans are becoming more aware of the problem of plastic pollution in the environment, so they are willing to recycle more. The government can help the waste management industry to improve its infrastructure so that more waste can be collected and recycled.

This tax will drive inflation

A tax on single-use plastics is an emotional response to a global concern. However, it will have a significant impact on the economy rather than the environment. This tax is likely to increase inflation as manufacturers and retailers increase their prices to cover the costs of the tax. This will put added pressure on an industry that employs over 60 000 people.

The real solution lies in developing innovative and environmentally-friendly plastic products. Rather than taxing the industry and the consumer, the national government can work with plastics producers to help develop these innovative products. Government funding will go a long way to helping the plastics industry develop new, eco-friendly plastic products.

Plastics SA is determined to find a solution to problematic plastics usage and disposal. We are currently developing an intricate plan to deal with single-use plastics that is aligned with international standards and takes into consideration South Africa’s environmental, socio-political and economic needs.

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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.

For more news, updates and information on the South African plastics industry, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.