Minister Edna Molewa calls on South Africans to join hands to eradicate plastic pollution

05 June 2018


Eradicating plastics pollution begins with small, individual consumer actions such as avoiding single-use plastic products; and with recycling existing plastic products wherever possible.

This is the message from Minister of Environmental Affairs Dr Edna Molewa as the international community marks World Environment Day (WED). This year’s WED theme: Beating Plastic Pollution, urges governments, industries, communities and individuals to come together and explore sustainable alternatives and urgently reduce the production and excessive use of single-use plastic products.

Dr Molewa has reiterated sentiment expressed during the Department’s Budget Vote speech last month, that South Africa was committed to minimizing plastic pollution and that the DEA is looking at introducing a raft of measures to curb plastic pollution. One such measure is phasing out the use of micro-beads in the production of cosmetics. The Department is in consultation with the cosmetics industry in this regard.

These will be aligned with recommendations of a plastic material flow Study undertaken by the Department. In line with resolutions taken at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA), the Study showed that only 21% of plastic waste is recycled. The Study recommends among other issues, that plastics must be collected and removed at source.

The Departments of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and Trade and Industry (DTI) as well as the DTI agencies, the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) as well as National Treasury will shortly be reviewing the implementation and impact of our country’s plastic bag policies.

“Plastic pollution is particularly insidious because once plastics enter into the environment, they do not biodegrade, but simply break down into smaller pieces over time,” says Minister Molewa.

“This has a detrimental effect on our environment, more so once this pollution enters our oceans and endangers marine life and fragile marine ecosystems,” adds Minister Molewa.

The South African government remains committed to implementing the recommendations of the plastic material flow study.

To mark World Environment Day the Minister has announced the upcoming launch of the #THUMAMINA/green/good/deeds; for a clean and beautiful South Africa campaign, in response to the Presidential THUMA-MINA Initiative.

This campaign aims to change attitudes and behaviour towards Waste and environment in general and mobilize every citizen to take responsibility for keeping their communities clean.

The Minister has emphasised that the Phakisa waste economy, led by DEA and COGTA, has the potential to address inequality, poverty alleviation and create jobs. In this regard, the Department manages a number of programmes aimed at waste minimization through the 4Rs; recovery, reduce, reuse, and recycling.

One such programme, in line with the objectives of the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS), is the Recycling Enterprise Support Programme (RESP).Through this, we provide developmental funding for projects in the form of start-up grants. These projects are either start-up or pre-existing enterprises and include Buy-Back Centres, Material Recovery Facilities, Construction & Demolishing solutions as well as plastic palletisation plants.

RESP has been allocated a budget of R194 million over a three-year period and has already made a material impact to the lives of 12 black owned and managed enterprises.

Furthermore, the Department is currently conducting a third periodic review of the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS). The review will take into consideration our country’s commitment to waste minimisation; the further development of the Circular Economy; and overall consider the capacity or resource implications for the implementation of waste management functions.

“Our Constitution undertakes all South Africans the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing. Let us join hands in the drive to reduce not just plastic pollution but all forms of pollution,” says Dr Molewa.

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Editors’ Note:

World Environment Day is the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) biggest annual event commemorated on 5 June, with an aim of galvanising positive environmental action. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1972, and was first celebrated in 1974 with a view to deepening environmental awareness and address concerns such as the depletion of the ozone layer, toxic chemicals, desertification and global warming.

South Africa has adopted the entire month of June to heighten awareness of environmental issues through various pertinent activities. It is during the month of June that South Africa will also celebrate the World Oceans Day (WOD) and the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD).

The WOD is an initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme celebrated annually on June 8th with an aim of raising awareness about the significance of the marine environment. It also promotes the role of the oceans and the importance of conserving and protecting the marine environment. This year’s WOD theme is: Preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean.

On the 17th June, South Africa will also join our global partners in recognising and celebrating the World Day to Combat Desertification. The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (WDCD) has been observed since 17 March 1995 to promote public awareness about the international efforts to combat desertification and the effects of drought.