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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 Cleanupandrecycle.co.za 

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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 SA helps to tackle plastics pollution with ocean clean-ups

During the month of September 2019, Plastics SA is on a drive to clean up the environment and promote recycling in South Africa. From Monday, 16 September to Saturday, 21 September 2019, we will celebrate Clean-up and Recycle SA Week with numerous litter collection campaigns and ocean clean-ups

“Research has shown that 85% of the litter found in oceans is from land based sources. Our activities are aimed at informing the public of the positive impact that responsible waste management can have on the world’s oceans and reminding them that plastics should be properly discarded and recycled after use, not end up in the oceans or the environment,” says Plastics SA sustainability director Douw Steyn.

Plastics SA tackles marine pollution through ocean clean-ups

Plastics SA has already participated in a few ocean clean-ups this year. In June 2019, Plastics SA collaborated with Clean Surf Project, the Shoprite Group, Toti Beach Management and Sapphire Coast Tourism to eradicate litter from the Toti Lagoon on the kwaZulu-Natal coast. We donated plastic refuse bags and gloves to the volunteers for this clean-up initiative.

At this event, Plastics SA also launched the KZN Marine Waste Network – South Coast. This initiative focuses on the waste management and recycling of plastics in the Amanzimtoti and Umbogintwini River Catchment Area. It also aims to educate the surrounding community on the importance of responsible waste disposal practices. This network aims to install a number of litter booms and host regular litter clean-up campaigns in the vicinity of these rivers and lagoons.

Working with partner organisations to find sustainable solutions

“The plastics industry, globally and locally, is committed to finding solutions to end plastic pollution found in our oceans, rivers and other water sources. We have made impressive strides towards reaching this goal with the forming of the South African Initiative to End Plastic Pollution in the Environment earlier this year,” says Steyn. 

By partnering with other organisations, such as the Shoprite Group and local community projects, Plastics SA is able to implement sustainable solutions to river and ocean pollution. The protection of the environment is a vital step in building a healthy and safe country for all. However, these solutions require buy-in and participation from every citizen and business. 

As we commemorate a month of clean-ups and recycling initiatives, help the plastics industry improve the environment by taking part in a community clean-up in your area. Together we can turn the tide on plastics in the oceans!

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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.

Clean-up and Recycle SA Week takes place mid-September

Plastics SA and the entire industry is committed to cleaning the environment and removing litter from our rivers, beaches, oceans and public spaces. The annual Clean-up and Recycle SA Week takes place from 16 to 21 September 2019, and Plastics SA will be getting involved for the 23rd year running.

“Clean-up and Recycle SA Week began as a project of the plastics industry and Ezemvelo/KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, in 1996,” says Plastics SA sustainability director Douw Steyn. “Since then, it has grown to include the participation of all the packaging streams (i.e. paper, glass, metal and tetra packaging) as well as the support of major plastic raw material suppliers, converters, brand owners and retailers, PROs (Product Responsibility Organisations), recycling bodies, and conservationists and government,” he explains.

“During this week, we all unite our actions around the common goal of removing as much litter as we possibly can from our environment. We also aim to teach South Africans how to dispose of their waste in a responsible way, by highlighting the importance of recycling materials that can be used to create new products, generate employment and reduce our impact on the environment,” says Steyn.

Calls to host your own clean-up event

Anyone can host their own clean-up initiative during the week-long campaign. Plastics SA encourages businesses, schools, communities and government departments to organise litter clean-ups in their towns, suburbs and surrounding areas. Where possible, Plastics SA will provide support for these initiatives by donating garbage disposal bags and offering advice on proper recycling practices.

Any clean-up initiative that is organised will be hosted on the Clean-up and Recycle SA website. This will allow residents to find an initiative in their area and get involved. “This week will culminate in National Recycling Day (Friday, 20 September 2019) and South Africa’s participation in the International Coastal Clean-Up and the ‘Let’s Do It!’ World Clean-Up (Saturday, 21 September),” Steyn reveals.

In 2018, the global Clean-up and Recycle Week attracted support from 17 million volunteers living in 158 countries, including South Africa. Tens of thousands of clean-up events took place around the world during the week, despite six tropical cyclones, wars and civil unrest. This was the largest organised clean-up to ever take place in a time span of 36 hours.

South Africans can get involved to make a lasting impact on the environment

Plastics SA is proud of South Africa’s involvement in last year’s event. “Being concerned about plastics that end up in the environment and trying to do something about it, is nothing new to the plastics industry. In fact, we have been working consistently to bring about change for more than 20 years by educating society and working with the designers, producers, consumers and recyclers of plastic goods and packaging,” says Steyn. 

“We have also been lobbying provincial, national and local government about the need for improved waste management. Whilst it is great to see the growing public support and awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution, we realise that the challenge is far from over,” he explains.

“To truly reach our objectives of sending zero-waste-to-landfill, dramatically reducing our environmental footprint and creating a circular economy, we need everybody’s participation. The issue of waste in the environment is a global problem, and the solution will, therefore, require a consistent, global effort,” Steyn concludes.

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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.

International Coastal Clean-up Day

September is Clean-up and Recycle Month in South Africa. A number of community clean-ups and waste collection campaigns are being organised around the country in order to minimise pollution in the environment. One of the important days to note this month is International Coastal Clean-up Day, taking place on Saturday, 21 September 2019. Be part of this worldwide initiative.

Coastal communities around South Africa are encouraged to take part in beach clean-ups and environmental rehabilitations to remove litter and pollution from these areas. The coastline is a vital environment that is prone to litter. Floating refuse can get washed down rivers and be brought in from ocean currents.

Citizens can organise or take part in clean-up initiatives in their areas on Saturday the 21st. By working together to remove debris and litter, residents in seaside towns can help to improve the state of their environments. This will protect the multitude of animals that share the beaches and waters around these coastal communities.

Plastics SA supports all types of pollution eradication and encourages consumers to recycle their plastic waste. We will be taking part in some of these initiatives on International Coastal Clean-up Day. Get in touch with your local community leaders and environmental organisations to find out what clean-up campaigns have been planned in your area. Or, you could visit the Clean-up and Recycle South Africa events page for more information.

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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.

National Recycling Day South Africa

September marks national Clean-up and Recycle Month. Numerous community clean-ups and litter collection campaigns are being organised around the country in order to minimise pollution in the environment. One of the important days to note this month is National Recycling Day, taking place on Friday 20 September 2019. 

Anyone can host or take part in a recycling initiative in their area. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about the importance of recycling waste. Not only does it give products such as metals, plastics, glass and paper a second life, but recycling also helps to keep this waste out of the environment and landfills.

South Africa already has some of the highest recycling rates in the world, but there is always room for improvement. Citizens are urged to separate and recycle their household waste in order to boost sustainability and environmental cleanliness. Recycling is also a major contributor to the South African economy – nearly R3-billion was injected into the local economy in 2018 thanks to the recycling industry.

Plastics SA supports all types of pollution eradication and encourages consumers to recycle their plastic waste. We will be taking part in some of these initiatives on National Recycling Day. Get in touch with your local community leaders and environmental organisations to find out what recycling initiatives have been planned in your area. Alternatively, you can visit the Clean-up and Recycle South Africa events page or the National Recycling Forum website for more information.

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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.

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 SA announces pollution alliance

Plastics SA is pleased to announce the formation of a strategic alliance that will tackle plastic waste. The South African Alliance to End Plastic Pollution in the Environment is a united group of stakeholders in the plastics value chain that will collaborate to prevent and eradicate plastic waste in our oceans, rivers and lands.

All countries are fighting pollution and excessive waste. South Africa’s pollution problem will require a unique solution and input from all sectors of society; citizens, businesses and the government. This war on plastic pollution has reached a critical stage. We must take steps to educate South Africans about the dangers of pollution while improving our waste management services and facilities at the same time.

This alliance will speed up the process of finding a workable plan that is best suited to the South African context. It needs to be aligned with our local waste management initiatives and fit the context of our environmental, socio-political and economic objectives. The alliance will essentially find the best solutions for South Africa, as a whole, and put an end to plastic waste in the environment.

What will the South African Alliance to End Plastic Pollution in the Environment do?

This alliance’s first priority will be to tackle single-use plastic packaging waste. All stakeholders will work together to fast-track the development of environmentally-sound plastic products. The alliance will also work to improve plastic recycling rates as soon as possible. 

South Africa currently has some of the highest plastic recycling rates in the world, but there is always room for improvement. Alliance members will work to create more plastic products from recycled content and ensure that plastic products become 100% recyclable in the near future.

Sustainable life cycle assessments of plastic products will form the foundation of these solutions. Working alongside the government, communities and key research institutions, the alliance will hopefully find a solution to plastic waste that benefits the entire country and protects existing jobs in the plastics industry.

The alliance has a time-based plan

The South African Alliance to End Plastic Pollution in the Environment currently has a plan to make an immediate impact on plastic pollution. We will also remain mindful of other global initiatives, the National Development Plan (NDP 2030) and other local objectives around plastic waste.

Existing local recycling projects are increasing and they are helping to boost the plastic recycling rates. However, a more long-term solution still needs to be developed to deal with the lack of waste management services and infrastructure, especially in small towns in South Africa.

The problem of plastic pollution is complicated and, as such, requires the input from all stakeholders in the plastics industry, the government and ordinary citizens. This will help the alliance to find the most effective, sustainable and economically-viable solution to our plastic waste problem.

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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.

Pollution is the problem, not plastic

South Africa and many other countries around the world are calling for a ban on plastic products. However, this is not the best solution for the global pollution crisis; a complex problem that requires rational thought and deep-rooted changes in the way society functions.

Banning plastic bags is an emotional reaction to the problem of plastic pollution. The supporters of this ban may have good intentions, but they do not fully understand the impact that this will have on society. The real problem lies with our waste disposal practices, such as illegal dumping and littering.

These are the major causes of plastic pollution in the environment. “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.

Plastic pollution is the result of poor waste disposal practices

South Africa has some of the highest plastic recycling rates in the world. In 2018, we collected and recycled over 46% of our plastic waste – a 12% increase from the previous year. Our recycling facilities are able to process a vast amount of plastic and keep these products out of landfills, but the industry’s efforts alone cannot win the war on pollution.

Proper disposal of plastic products will go a long way to boost recycling rates and keep these materials out of the environment. Consumers must make the effort to put their plastic refuse in a recycling bin and avoid littering at all costs. The government can also help to improve waste collection infrastructure and recycling facilities.

The funds are already available to the government in the form of the plastic bag levy that was introduced in 2003. It currently stands at 12 cents for every plastic bag sold. By using this levy solely for the development of better recycling facilities and consumer education campaigns, the national government can unlock hundreds of millions of rands.

Plastic is a vital material for modern society

Banning plastics will have severe impacts on modern society. We use them every single day for basic tasks, sometimes without even being aware of it. While imagining a world without plastic pollution may be a novel idea, the fact is that we cannot live without plastic.

If disposed of correctly, plastic can be a more sustainable solution than its ‘environmentally-friendly’ alternatives, such as cotton. A recent study by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food reveals that many of these alternative materials actually have a bigger negative impact on the environment than plastic.

The study suggests that organic cotton shopping bags would need to be reused 7100 times in order to have the same environmental impact as a plastic shopping bag. This is because producing plastic bags is far cheaper, more energy-efficient and results in less carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. If we can curb pollution, we can save the environment and retain our dependence on plastic products for daily living.

“In the coming weeks and months, we, as the plastics industry, will embark on a sustained campaign to persuade government and citizens to join us in the war on plastic pollution. We support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s quest to clean up South Africa, but it can only happen if there is a recycling revolution in this country,” Hanekom exclaims.

“A rational conversation about plastic pollution recognises the positive attributes of plastic and focuses on how to manage plastic waste. To win this fight, we need to build strong collaborative and meaningful partnerships. Government, industry and the consumer need to work together,” concludes Hanekom.

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.