Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy hosts Plastic Colloquium
Plastics are inexpensive, lightweight and durable materials, which can be readily moulded into a variety of products that find use in a wide range of applications (Hopewell, 2009 and UN 2018). They have substantial benefits and have remained part of our lives for many years now. Plastics are found in containers and packaging (e.g., soft drink bottles, lids, shampoo bottles). They are also found in durable (e.g., appliances, furniture) and non-durable goods (e.g., diapers, trash bags, cups and utensils, medical devices). The plastics economy makes a significant contribution to the GDP of many countries through the support it provides to the manufacturing and other related sectors.
However, when they reach end of life, most plastic materials escape into the land and marine environment and take time to disappear. Plastics are increasingly considered as one of the problematic waste streams that are occupying landfill sites, illegal dumps, rivers and ultimately, oceans with dire consequences for aquatic life. Jambeck et al 2017 asserts that plastic waste presents not only an environmental issue for African countries, but also a major socio-economic development challenge, which affects biodiversity, infrastructure, tourism and fisheries livelihoods.
South Africa is addressing the challenge of plastic pollution and its impacts on human health and the environment. The study conducted by the DEA in 2017 on Plastics Materials Flow confirms that packaging constitutes the largest component of single-use plastic waste that is generated in South Africa. The generation of single-use plastic waste in South Africa is likely to increase with projected increases in population growth and urban expansion. The growing middle class is creating large consumer markets for plastic goods, especially single-use packaging products. The sprawling informal economy has given rise to non-compliant single use plastic carrier bags that easily find their way into the waste stream. Moreover, most informal settlements are situated next to the main rivers in South Africa (e.g. Hennops, Jukskei, Palmiet, Umngeni e.t.c). The poor waste infrastructure and illegal dumping sites in these areas result in single-use plastic waste entering the river systems through to the ocean.
In South Africa, numerous efforts have been made through policy interventions that seek to discourage and minimise the use of plastics with an aim of addressing their effects on the environment and human health:
- The National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) puts emphasis on the need to re-use, recycle and recover waste, including plastic waste.
- The major policy intervention to curb the generation of plastic waste in South Africa was the shared National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) agreement between government, organised business and organised labour to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to address the challenges associated with plastic waste, particularly from plastic bags.
- The plastic bag regulations and the compulsory specifications for plastic carrier bags and flat bags (VC8087).
- The plastic bag levy was introduced as part of controlling consumer behaviour and attitudes towards plastic bags.
However, a number of years have passed by, yet plastics remain one of the popular waste streams found in illegal dumping sites, landfill sites and oceans. For example, the latest National State of Waste Report indicates that over 50% of plastics in South Africa still end up in landfill sites. The current policy instruments have proven to be ineffective in delivering the expected results. There are persistent challenges with respect to compliance and enforcement. We have also witnessed the increase in plastic bag use over time, since the promulgation of the above policy instruments.
The Plastic Colloquium will bring together all key stakeholders to come up with clear objectives that will influence policy direction for plastic waste management.
The Minister will in this regard host The Plastic Colloquium in the Gauteng Province. The proposed dates are 21- 22 November 2019.
The colloquium’s main objectives are to:
- Create a platform to engage representatives of government, private sector and civil society in building more effective partnerships to enhance plastic waste management.
- Promote discussions on sustainable management of plastic waste in the country.
- Create a national platform for the exchange of information on best practice, and identify and address bottlenecks with regards to management of plastic waste in the country.
- Identify the key economic opportunities that could be realised from plastic waste and discuss how to incorporate the informal sector in plastic waste recycling.
- Deliberate on mechanisms for the effective delivery of waste management services by municipalities and support thereof.
- To deliberate on technologies for plastic waste management suitable for South Africa.
Theme: plastic waste and the circular economy
The Plastic Colloquium will be held on 21st – 22nd November 2019 in the Gauteng Province and will target 300 participants. The emphasis will be to bring together all the key stakeholders to discuss recent research, awareness campaigns, international best practises and policy direction around tackling the issues associated with plastic waste. The colloquium will be positioned around seven key working groups as proposed by the Minister, these are as follows:
- Product standards validation/authentication/definition/labelling
- Product design, development and innovation
- Integration of the informal waste economy
- Biodegradable and compostable plastics
- Consumer Education & Awareness
In the build up to the colloquium these working groups will convene with their various role players to discuss key areas of focus, as well as to identify proposals to be tabled at the main event.
The first day of the colloquium will commence with an exhibition from approximately 50 companies (SMME’s, Co-operatives) on current projects and business models being used for the management, collection, recycling and reuse of plastic waste. The exhibition will commence from 12:00 to 18h00. During this time each business will be awarded ±15 minutes to present their business model, however, during the entire exhibition participants in the colloquium will have an opportunity to engage further with each company.
From 18h00 – 19h30 on day one there will be a working dinner with the chairpersons of the working groups as well as industry leaders as identified by the Consumer Goods Council (CGC). The dinner will allow the Minister to receive a brief from the working group leaders as well as the CGC on key themes which have emanated from the various work stream as well as to help guide the discussion at the colloquium.
Day two will commence at 09h00 with an opening address by the Director General of the Department, followed by a statement by the DDG for Waste Management detailing the purpose and goals of the colloquium. The Minister will deliver a keynote address between 09h30 and 10h00, followed by a panel discussion by experts in plastic waste management that will end at 11h00. This panel will include industry players, retailers, and representatives from the informal sector.
Following a short tea break delegates will break away into their working groups, and discuss the topics they have identified as needing extra attention, policy gaps and innovations in their respective fields. This breakaway session will last from 11h15 until 13hoo, and will then be followed by lunch between 13h00 and 14h00. A plenary session will take place from 14h00 to 16h00, and the colloquium will be concluded by Minister during her closing remarks from 16h00 to 16h30.