Plastic industry body Plastics SA and packaging industry body Packaging SA have welcomed the new Section 18 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) plan introduced by Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy, which is expected to be implemented on November 5, 2021.
Section 18 is an industry-focused waste management plan that is intended to
extend a producer’s financial and physical responsibility for its product throughout the product’s life cycle including the post-consumer stage, which includes waste disposal.
Plastics SA executive director Anton Hanekom explains that the proposed Section 18 EPR will enable government to specify EPR measures for products and identify parties responsible for the implementation of waste management reduction measures associated with these products.
Hanekom points out that Plastics SA has always advocated for an industry-managed plan that holds the producers of packaging materials responsible for managing their waste.
This, he adds, can be achieved when producers belong to professional producer responsibility organisations (PRO) that represent their interests and drive their recycling and collection efforts.
“Belonging to a PRO will ensure that funding generated from membership fees paid to a PRO will be used to develop a recycling plan [and] that we redesign and rethink products to better suit government’s regulations and criteria of ensuring that the products have minimum impact on the environment.”
Hanekom adds that these organisations are all industry-funded and -managed, and are focused on growing the collection and recycling of various packaging streams to demonstrate members’ commitment to EPR.
Facts and Figures
Plastics SA releases the plastic recycling figures every year.
Hanekom explains that a detailed survey into the state of the country’s plastics recycling industry is done by plastics consultant Plastix 911 independent consultant Annabé Pretorius.
The survey includes the estimated solid waste that is generated in South Africa, according to the South African State of Waste Report 2017, which is about 108-million tonnes, of which about two-million tonnes is packaging waste, highlights Hanekom.
“The waste economy contributes about R2.3-billion to the country’s gross domestic product and provides an income for more than 60 000 formal and informal workers currently.”
Out of the 503 800 t of plastics waste collected for recycling in 2019, 362 800 t was packaging waste which is more than 50% of all packaging waste generated in the same period, providing South Africa with an input recycling rate of 45.7%, adds Hanekom.
Input recycling refers to the tonnage of recyclables that are collected for recycling.
“From 2011 to 2018, 46% of all the plastic produced in South Africa was recycled – making us one of the top mechanical plastic recycling countries globally.”
Hanekom notes that the plastic recycled back into raw material was the equivalent of 24-million 2 ℓ milk bottles a day. In total, 244 300 t of carbon dioxide was saved – the equivalent emissions of 51 000 cars in a year.
Hanekom elaborates that, owing to the South African plastics industry being dominated by the packaging industry, the increasing number of brand owners who are working on including recycled material in their packaging is encouraging.
He adds that, as a result of this growing end-market, 119 000 t of recycled plastics were used in 2019 to manufacture new rigid and flexible packaging items.
“Recycled flexible packaging was the largest market for recyclate, with 24% of all recycled materials finding a market in shopping bags, refuse bags and general flexible packaging.”
The collection, documentation and publication of updated and detailed data regarding the number of plastics that were produced, processed and recycled in South Africa provides an important instrument to gauge the growth and development of the industry, concludes Hanekom.