Keynote address by Minister Creecy at the 2020 International Coastal Clean-Up event and the launch of Inkwazi Isu Project

Amazimtoti Beach, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province, 19 September 2020

 

Thank you Programme Director
MEC of Economic Development and Tourism, MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube
Chairman of KZN Marine Waste Network South Coast – Revd Andrew Manning
Chief Executives and Management of Plastics SA, Transnet, Sapphire Coast Tourism
and Clean Surf Project, KZN Marine Waste Network South Coast, and Sasol
eThekwini Municipality
Community and the leadership of all Civil Society Organisations
Members of Academia and Research Organisations
Members of the media
Invited guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

 

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries acknowledges growing attention being placed on the problem of plastic pollution, and the effort that is being taken by the private sector, government, civil society and academia to address waste management in the country.

As you know, plastic has been around since the 1950s and its versatility has ensured its use in almost every aspect of modern life. The proliferation of plastic products has been attributed to the material being water-proof, durable, versatile and cheap.

Plastic products are used by almost every sector of the economy. Various sectors of the global economy benefit from numerous plastic use applications. Projections are that the global plastics economy is growing at a rate of 4% on an annual basis.

The South African economy benefits from the plastics economy. The building and construction, agriculture, automotive, electrical and electronic, mining and engineering sectors all continue to benefit from this thriving sector.

We all know that pollution on our beaches and waterways not only affects marine life but tourism. Plastic pollution is also damaging important ecosystem services which are crucial and provided to us by nature free of charge. Plastic waste undermines the flood absorption and water storage capacity of our wetlands. It also threatens our ocean, catchments, river systems and estuaries and the crucial services they provide for people and nature.

Ladies and gentlemen, last year the Department of Science and Innovation commissioned a science review of marine plastic pollution in South Africa, under its Waste Research, Development and Innovation Roadmap. The aim of the review was to consolidate and evaluate existing findings and to identify knowledge gaps to inform a future research agenda on marine plastic pollution. In line with global findings, the review confirmed that the overwhelming majority of marine litter found on our beaches – roughly 80% -- is comprised of plastic waste originating from land. It is now common knowledge that a major source of marine plastic pollution is uncollected and mismanaged waste which

gradually finds its way to our oceans through rivers and other waterways.

Through joint participation in clean-up initiatives and several pollution-related events, it has been evident that marine litter originates from a variety of land-based sources. The strengthening of formalised municipal collection of waste would go a long way in preventing pollution that eventually ends up in our oceans. However; there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The study on the Assessment of Plastic Material Flow and End of Life Management was conducted by the Department in 2017 with the aim to model total plastic flows through the economy to identify where specific challenges lie in terms of plastic disposal to landfill sites and plastic leakage to the environment. The study confirms that packaging constitutes the largest component of single-use plastic waste that is generated in South Africa.

According to the 2019 ICC Report, single-use plastic such as straws, lollipop sticks and stirrers were the most common items collected during clean-ups. Single-use plastics are increasingly considered as one of the problematic waste streams inundating landfill sites, illegal dumps, rivers, and ultimately oceans, causing dire consequences to aquatic life.

It is for this reason that the Department is finalising the proposed Extended Producer Responsibility notices and regulations with paper, packaging and some single use products prioritisation.

I appreciate the baseline assessment that SASOL released recently with an intention to understand the challenges around waste pollution in the KZN coast particularly in the two rivers that flow directly into the Indian Ocean, namely Amanzimtoti and Umbogintwini.

I would like to commend civil society, Transnet, KZN Africa Marine Network and the eThekwini Municipality for their incredible effort in introducing the Inkwazi Isu Project which aims to address waste management through recycling infrastructure and education in the KZN South Coast.

The Inkwazi Isu Project will be a good platform to bring together key stakeholders such as businesses, plastic industries, civil society, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Government to work towards promoting the recycling economy and to implement locally tailored solutions towards a circular economy for plastics in South Africa. This project will complement the Source to Sea programme which the Department has started implementing and will continue to implement in KZN. The Source to Sea programme is aimed at reducing marine litter by targeting and recovering litter at source in river catchments and human settlements along rivers, and promoting improved waste management.

It is critical that effective interventions like these are implemented to address plastic waste and inadequate waste management. I am glad to say that the DEFF is in full support of the project‘s common vision to address today's plastic waste and pollution issues. We all want to see an environment that is not harmful to the health of communities. A clean environment and an economy where waste is a valued resource and never becomes waste again is at the heart of the recently approved National Waste Management Strategy. The National Waste Management Strategy 2020 builds on the successes and lessons from the implementation of that 2011 strategy. The NWMS provides government policy and strategic interventions for the waste sector and is aligned and responsive to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 adopted by all United Nations (UN) member States. It is also aligned and consistent with South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP): Vision 2030 which is our country’s specific response to, and integration of the SDGs into our overall socio-economic development plans.

Today we talk a lot of circular economy as one of the solutions to plastic pollution.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it must be noted that the Department has always taken plastic pollution seriously. This is demonstrated by our proactive evidence-led policy making and policy implementation approach that we have adopted to undertake studies on plastics material flows and our outreach and awareness programmes. We need to encourage all our citizens to become concerned about circularity and make the effort to buy products manufactured from recycled material.  We therefore encourage the plastics, metals and glass industries to continue with their efforts to increase their recycling rates.

Under the National Environment Management: Waste Act: the industries on paper, packaging, electrical, electronic and lighting will soon be implementing Extended Producer Responsibility schemes to demonstrate how they will decrease packaging waste in the environment, amongst other aspects. The country is on a greener policy trajectory and amendments to existing policy instruments governing the production and sale of plastic carrier bags are also being finalised with new requirements to prescribe minimum recyclate content in the manufacturing of plastic carrier bags. We are also assessing the extent of single use plastic waste with a view to propose additional policy interventions to improve the management of plastic waste.

In November 2020, we hosted a 2-day Plastic Colloquium session in which many of you were present where we made commitments about better management of plastic in the environment. The Colloquium emphasised the need for us and the rest of the world to work together in finding appropriate solutions on plastics problems. I am glad to say that the discussion from Colloquium’s Working Group sessions were fruitful and that we are busy implementing the recommendations and assessing progress. I am aware that this kind of engagement must be continuous in order to be effective and plans will be shared in due course.  

I am sure that working together, we will find the most attractive solutions inherent in the ‘circular economy’ to how we help turn ‘waste into worth’.

I thank you