The Department of Environmental Affairs is currently in talks with the industry bodies to phase out or completely ban plastic products like straws and microbeads in South Africa.
According to Mark Gordon, the department’s deputy director-general for chemical and waste management, the single-use products are considered to be unfriendly to the environment.
He added that single-use plastic products like earbuds, straws, stirrers, table cups, tableware and polystyrene packaging were especially harmful to the marine sector.
“We have started a discussion document that we have shared with a number of stakeholders and we are in the process of inviting comments around it,” he said.
“I think we presented previously around this on what would be their replacements.
“We know that to some extent there has been a replacement of plastic straws with paper straws and I am not sure if everybody likes it. There are bamboo straws, there are stainless steel reusable straws,” he said.
Gordon said that the department has also introduced a number of consumer awareness campaigns aimed at encouraging members of the public to avoid using plastic straws.
He said while the process unfolds, there has been heightened consumer awareness campaigns that are aimed at encouraging members of the public to refuse the straw.
Gordon said a number of restaurant chains have stopped giving out straws to patrons completely, while others would ask a customer if they wanted a straw.
He said whenever the department does beach clean-ups, earbuds and plastic stirrers featured high up on the list of the waste and added that these posed a great danger to marine species.
“We are prioritising this. We have identified the priority products that we need to address and we are doing this in a matrix where we look at these products – what are the compostable alternative availability, the cost of the alternative, the market readiness in terms of availability in South Africa – and we are really quantifying every aspect of this to look at its market readiness.
“We don’t want to unnecessarily (intervene) where we were going to really skew markets and people will be out of work and there are issues around jobs and all of that and we are working really closely with the industry.
“In all of them, the status is that we are still in consultation with the industry, consumer groups and the retailers on how we could phase out or ban these products and what would be the replacement and alternatives for them,” he said.