The South African (SA) Plastics Pact members have published a first list of problematic or unnecessary plastics for phasing out this year and next.
The SA Plastics Pact is a collaborative pre-competitive initiative that brings together key stakeholders from the local plastics value chain, including businesses, the South African government, producer responsibility organisations (PROs), nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and other key players to tackle plastic waste and pollution at its source.
The SA Plastics Pact members have set specific, ambitious and time-bound targets (end 2025) to address the country’s design, production, use, recovery and recycling of plastic packaging, including primary, secondary and tertiary formats.
The targets are to take action on problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through elimination, redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models; for 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025; for 70% of plastic packaging to be effectively recycled; and that there is a 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.
The publication of the Phase 1 list of problematic or unnecessary plastics, titled ‘Addressing problematic or unnecessary plastics’ represents a significant milestone in the progress towards Target 1 of the SA Plastics Pact, the organization said in a statement on September 9.
The publication defines “unnecessary plastic” as “plastic items that can be avoided (or replaced by a reuse model) while maintaining utility. They have limited social utility, for which no alternative is required, and which can be phased out without significant behavioural or infrastructural change”.
It also defines problematic plastic as having characteristics such as that those plastics: are not reusable, recyclable (technically and/or economically not recyclable) or compostable; contain, or which manufacturing process requires, hazardous chemicals that pose a significant risk to human health or the environment; hinder or disrupt the recyclability or compostability of other items; and have a high likelihood of being littered or ending up in the natural environment.
The publication lists the first group of plastics which members have pledged to phase out in 2021 and 2022. These include oxo-degradable plastics, polyvinylchloride (PVC) bottles, pallet wrap, and labels - PVC or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) shrink sleeves - on PET bottles, and plastic stickers on fruit and vegetables, besides others.
“The publication of this list of problematic and unnecessary plastics is a significant moment for the SA Plastics Pact. It shows what can be achieved through the focused collaborative action fostered by Plastics Pact,” said British-registered charity Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap) international programmes head David Rogers.
He added that, in the UK, Plastics Pact members have made significant progress working towards eliminating the initial target list of eight problematic and unnecessary items, which has resulted in a 40% reduction in these plastics since 2018.
“We are continuing this work by identifying further items for elimination this year. We at Wrap look forward to continuing to work with GreenCape and the SA Plastics Pact signatories and supporters to drive progress towards a circular economy for plastics in South Africa,” Rogers noted.
In publishing this Phase 1 list of problematic and unnecessary plastics, the SA Plastics Pact has become the fourth international pact to do so, joining the UK Plastics Pact, the Chilean Plastics Pact and the Portuguese Plastics Pact.
The publication also lists items identified for inclusion in a Phase 2 list, which is to be published in due course.