For the paper and packaging industries to increase their recycling rates, the draft Industry Waste Management Plan, presented to the Depart-ment of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in August 2011 by the Packaging Council of South Africa (Pacsa), needs to be approved by government.
“We will not be able to make any further significant progress towards our recycling goals until government introduces the relevant legislation and regulations that will make compliance with the plan mandatory,” says Pacsa executive director Andrew Marthinusen.
Pacsa’s main target is to get the DEA to approve the draft Industry Waste Management Plan and follow it up with the necessary regulations to start its implementation. “Until then, our 2015 recycling targets, as proposed in the draft plan, are meaningless,” he stresses.
Marthinusen notes that the council’s draft Industry Waste Management Plan is still awaiting DEA evaluation because the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa’s Integrated Industry Waste Tyre Management Plan has been delayed, owing to various legal processes which the department wishes to resolve before proceeding with other plans.
The Pacsa plan proposes that the paper and packaging sectors need not start from scratch and develop a revolutionary new plan, but, instead, should build on the impressive waste management results that have already been achieved in the sectors.
A key aspect outlined in the plan also includes the implementation of better sorting methods at collection points, particularly households.
Households will be compelled by municipalities, through regulation, to separate their waste into recyclable and other waste streams.
“This process is critical to obtain more uncontaminated waste for the recycling industry,” Marhinusen highlights, adding that if South Africa were to increase its recycling rates in this way, more jobs could be created for people who collect recyclables from households and take the material to a different location for further separation.
It is also vital that all the role-players in the greater paper and packaging supply chain are involved in the solutions, as there can be no free riders, he adds.
The draft Industry Waste Management Plan, submitted and agreed upon by stakeholders in the paper and packaging industries, includes all packaging materials made from glass, paper, metal, plastic and composites, as well as all other printing and writing paper.
The National Environmental Management: Waste Act, No 59 of 2008, suggests, in its waste hierarchy, avoiding the creation of waste or reducing the amount of waste being generated, and reusing, recycling and recovering the waste that is created before sending it to a landfill site.
Taking the hierarchy into consideration, the paper and packaging industries have done a good job of implementing the first three elements of the hierarchy, which resulted in a 68% diversion of waste from landfills in 2011, explains Marthinusen.
Meanwhile, of the 3.7-million tons of new paper and packaging released onto the South African market in 2011, including imports comprising empty packaging and prepackaged foods, the paper and packaging industries, driven by the various material streams in these two industries, recycled 1.75-million tons, or 47%, of all paper and packaging consumed in the country, he notes.
Further, initiatives being driven by paper and packaging organisations to improve their recycling rates have resulted in overall recycling rates improving from 44.5 % in 2009 to 47% in 2011.
These initiatives are under- taken by the various material stream organisations dedi- cated to increasing recycling rates in the country. The initiatives include the can collection initiative, Collect-a-Can, the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa, polyethylene terephthalate bottles and products recycling initiative Petco, Plastics SA, the Polystyrene Packaging Council, the Glass Recycling Company, the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation and aluminium product recycler Hulamin.
To illustrate the paper and packaging industries’ efforts to manage their waste, the weight of the metal beverage can has been reduced by 80% from 66 g when it was introduced in 1966 to 13 g in 2013, when the new all- aluminium beverage can will be introduced.