With a much greater focus and emphasis on sustainability and minimising waste in the marine environment, industry representative body Plastics SA says the various clean-up projects nationally are growing and expanding this year.
“We have a number of clean-up projects planned including our river catchment projects, litter boom initiatives and the coastal and inland clean-up projects. We will be participating in the International Conference of the African Marine Waste Network, which will be taking place in Gqeberha, from May 23 to 27. This event will aim to get representatives from various African countries to work together towards achieving zero plastics to the seas,” explains Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom.
Plastics SA also partnered with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Cape Town-based nonprofit organisation Green Cape on a new pilot project, titled Breaking the Plastic Wave.
“This is a first-of-its-kind research model that aims to cut the yearly flow of plastic into the oceans by about 80% over the next 20 years. “This will hopefully be carried out by applying existing solutions and technologies.”
He adds that the CSIR is part of the team developing this global model and has managed to use South African data as the first pilot project globally. As part of this working group steering committee, Plastics SA is providing industry information for populating the data sets.
Once the research has been completed, the model will provide a clear, evidence-based approach to dealing with the management of plastic waste, the details of the challenges faced and the best way to address them.
Meanwhile, new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation – Section 18 Regulations to the National Environmental Management: Waste Act – came into effect on November 5, last year.
This law makes it mandatory for producers and importers of packaging materials to register with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, to join or create a product responsibility organisation and pay the relevant EPR fees, which will then be used to deal with the packaging as a waste product after use.
“We are excited about what this new legislation could potentially mean for the industry and how it stands to boost our sustainability efforts. For the first time in history, there are regulations and laws in place that compel our citizens, retailers, brand owners, packaging manufacturers, government and the recycling industry to collaborate with one another. This is a major step forward in our efforts to create a circular economy,” Hanekom says.
He explains that the well-established training department is rebranding and repositioning itself as an academy of learning and development. It will ultimately equip locals and learners from Africa with the latest technical and practical skills to address the current and future skills gaps facing the industry.
The new academy of learning and development will officially be launched in the next few months to expand the curriculum, and make service offerings more appealing to the local market. It will also add significant value to the plastic manufacturing industries in the rest of Africa, concludes Hanekom.