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South African Plastics Pact a first in Africa

Collaborative platform will tackle plastic waste and pollution

Research shows that eight million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean every year and with a business as usual scenario, according to research done by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by 2050 there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean by weight. The statistics are overwhelming but initiatives like the newly launched and game-changing South African Plastics Pact aim to tackle the problem head on by keeping plastics in the economy and out of the environment.  

Launched on the 30th of January 2020, the SA Plastics Pact was developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA), in partnership with the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO), and the UK’s WRAP. It has been developed for the South African context but also shaped by experiences of others in the global Plastics Pact network, in particular the UK Plastics Pact, led by WRAP. The SA Plastics Pact will be managed and delivered by GreenCape, with the founding members committed to a series of ambitious targets for 2025 to prevent plastics from becoming waste or pollution.

The SA Plastics Pact is the latest to join The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Pact global network, aligned with the New Plastics Economy vision. The first of its kind in Africa, the SA Plastics Pact joins France, the UK, the Netherlands and Chile, to exchange knowledge and collaborate to accelerate the transition to the circular economy for plastic.

The SA Plastics Pact founding members are the Clicks Group, Coca-Cola Africa, Danone, Distell, HomeChoice, Massmart, Myplas, Nampak Rigids, Pick n Pay, Polyoak, Polyplank, Shoprite Group, SPAR, Spur Holdings, The Foschini Group, Tigerbrands, Tuffy, Unilever, ADDIS, Waste Plan and Woolworths. Other organisations include Fruit South Africa, SAPRO, the Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation, the Polystyrene Association of South Africa, the PET Recycling Company, the Southern African Vinyls Association, the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa, the National Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries and the City of Cape Town.

By 2025, all members commit to:

  • Take action on problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models.
  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable*
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled
  • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

In order to achieve these 2025 targets for a circular economy for plastic in South Africa, various activities are required. Some plastic items are problematic or unnecessary and need to be designed out. Reuse models can reduce the need for single-use packaging, while at the same time hold the potential for significant user and business benefits. All plastics need to be designed to be reusable, recyclable or compostable in practice and at scale, with a concerted effort on both the design, and the after-use side. *In the case of compostables, this is applicable only in closed loop and controlled systems with sufficient infrastructure available or fit for purpose applications.

By delivering on these targets, the SA Plastics Pact will help boost job creation in the South African plastics collection and recycling sector, and help to create new opportunities in product design and reuse business models. Following the launch, GreenCape, with the support of WWF-SA and WRAP, will develop the South African Plastics Pact roadmap for 2025 towards collective action in the local market, with annual public progress reporting.

The SA Plastics Pact was developed with funding support from the UN Environment, Sustainable Lifestyles & Education Programme, the UK’s Commonwealth Litter Programme, and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the British High Commission and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust.

Lorren de Kock, WWF-SA Project Manager: Circular Plastics Economy,  commented: “The SA Plastics Pact has the advantage of working with an established recycling sector but there are challenges. We’ll need to focus on smarter packaging design, alternative delivery models and ways to increase the value of materials. Through the SA Plastics Pact, we can support the development of a secondary resource or ‘circular economy’ in South Africa which will drive investment in infrastructure, support livelihoods and keep our environment free of plastic pollution. We applaud the South African Plastics Pact signatories who are pioneers in taking the first step towards establishing a circular plastics economy nationally and in the region.
 

Plastic bottles packaged ready for recycling.

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