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WWF welcomes new regulations to tackle plastic pollution

WWF welcomes the publication of new regulations that will require producers to take responsibility for what happens to their products post-consumer as a significant step forward in addressing the plastic pollution crisis in South Africa.

On 5 November 2020, the Department of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, gazetted regulations for a mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for the lighting, electrical and electronic equipment, and paper and packaging sectors.

These regulations extend the producer’s responsibility for their products and packaging to the end-of-life stage of their life cycle. This means that they will be responsible for collecting, sorting, refurbishing, reusing, recycling and/or disposing of their products and packaging in a sustainable manner. It also requires them to report on progress made towards the collection and recycling targets specified per packaging material and format in the regulations. 

The EPR scheme covers a range of packaging materials, including glass, metal, paper and plastic packaging, but also single-use plastics, including food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, tubs, cups and cutlery.

Not only can EPR strengthen sustainable waste management more broadly, but it also provides incentive mechanisms for product redesign, or eco-design, for increased repairability, reusability or recyclability and, therefore, plays a critical role in supporting a circular economy transition.

Lorren de Kock, Project Manager: Circular Plastics Economy with WWF South Africa, commented: “We also welcome the requirement that producers integrate informal waste reclaimers into the post-consumer collection value chain and to pay them for services rendered. The informal sector plays a critical role in collecting recyclable waste but continue to face numerous challenges. It is great to see their recognition and inclusion in the EPR regulations.

“However, with that said, there will be challenges, as well as opportunities, in implementing these regulations. It will require significant effort and collaboration among all stakeholders, including industry, government, waste management operators and consumers. While the regulations make producers responsible for their waste, it still requires you, the consumer, to play your part by avoiding unnecessary plastic, investing in reusable products and separating your recyclable waste so that it can be collected and recycled for a circular plastics economy.”

© Polyco
An informal waste reclaimer carries plastic chairs and bags filled with recyclable plastic bottles to sell at a buyback centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

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