SA Plastics Pact publishes baseline report to drive innovation to 2025 targets

22nd November 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

The South African Plastics Pact, which aims to have 100% of plastic packaging be reusable, recyclable or compostable, 70% of plastic packaging be effectively recycled and a 30% minimum average recycled content across all plastic packaging by 2025, as well as to take action against problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging, has published its first baseline report on members' progress in achieving these targets.

The report highlights brand owners and retailers with their own brands, as the key part of the value chain to change packaging portfolios to recyclable and reusable packaging, as well as to specify recycled content.

“In driving progress towards these targets, members are stimulating innovation and dialogue, and unlocking collaborations across industry boundaries towards circularity. The SA Plastics Pact will create the context for new businesses that will be needed for the circular economy, creating new, decent and sustained jobs,” says SA Plastics Pact project lead Dr Kirsten Barnes.

SA Plastics Pact brand owners and retailers account for 29% of the plastic packaging placed on the market in South Africa and SA Plastics Pact converters similarly account for 27.6% of the plastic packaging placed on the market.

The SA Plastic Pact 2025 targets are specifically designed to facilitate the transition to a circular economy for plastics through eliminating problematic items, or Target 1; redesigning for reuse and recycling, or Target 2; improving recovery, collection and recycling systems, or Target 3; and inspiring demand for recycled content back into plastic packaging, orTarget 4, says Barnes.

In taking action against problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging, the report's findings showed that, during 2020, 108-million problematic or unnecessary plastic items were sold by SA Plastics Pact members and, during the course of this year, 48-million problematic or unnecessary plastic items are on track to be phased out.

Further, to ensure 100% of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, the report showed that 69.9% of consumer or primary plastic packaging placed on the market by Pact members is currently recyclable in practice and at scale in South Africa.

Additionally, 80.7% of plastic packaging placed on the market by Pact members is currently recyclable in practice and at scale in South Africa, which includes consumer or primary packaging and retailer or secondary and tertiary packaging.

In terms of ensuring 70% of plastic packaging is effectively recycled, Plastics SA’s National Recycling Survey reports that 503 600 t of plastic waste was collected for recycling in 2019, of which 362 800 t were packaging. This gives South Africa an input recycling rate of 45.7%.

Further, in terms of ensuring a 30% minimum average recycled content across all plastic packaging by 2025, the report showed that average recycled content across consumer or primary packaging is 7.63%, while average recycled content across retailer and secondary packaging is 37%.

The report concludes that, with respect to a 30% minimum average recycled content across all plastic packaging, “significantly greater focus on increasing recycled content in packaging portfolios is needed, not only to achieve this target, but also to drive progress towards ensuring that 70% of plastic packaging is effectively recycled”.

All business and supporting members of the SA Plastics Pact were requested to submit specific information in relation to the targets.

“Data reporting and measurement is a key aspect to drive change and track progress across business members that sell products in plastic packaging, either as a product manufacturer or a retailer. This report is a summary of the total packaging usage by these members for the 2020 reporting year and serves as a baseline against a measurable set of targets. The baseline will assist in steering the SA Plastics Pact’s progress over the coming years,” Barnes says.