Creating a true circular economy for plastic packaging
Growth in South Africa’s population and increased urbanisation has led to an increase in per capita waste generation. This places stress on current landfills and results in litter in the environment.
As a pro-active response to the growing national concern around waste and its impact on society and the environment, South Africa has recently published the Section 18 Regulations to the National Environmental Management: Waste Act on 5 November 2020, which refers to the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) aspect of the National Environmental Management Waste Act (NEMWA). The regulations will come into effect on 5 May 2021.
This new legislation makes EPR mandatory for all producers and importers of packaging. It changes how producers, brand owners, retailers and importers design, make, sell and keep their products in the recycling loop as far as is practicably possible. Any company or brand that makes or imports any form of plastic packaging for distribution is required to pay an EPR fee per tonne. Strict targets have been set by Government, for yearly collection and recycling, that need to be met over the next five years. EPR will see an investment in collection infrastructure. Not only will this provide consumers with more convenient recycling facilities, but a concerted recovery effort at the pre-consumer or post-industrial phase. Intensive consumer awareness campaigns will also help to drive behaviour change. All companies involved in the value chain must work together to ensure that less waste goes to landfill.
Instead of supporting the outdated, linear approach of producing, using and discarding plastic packaging waste that continues to hold value after it has been used, our focus is now on developing a true circular economy within South Africa – where the value of waste is never lost but is kept within the economy by ensuring that these materials are reused and recycled into many new and useful materials.
Luckily, South Africa’s plastics industry is well positioned for this next stage of environmental legislation. We have four voluntary, industry-led PRO’s that have been running for many years now and have impressive track-records of collection and recycling successes, namely PETCO for PET, Polyco for polyolefins (PP, HDPE, LDPE/LLDPE and Multi-layer), the Polystyrene Association for polystyrene, Southern African Vinyls Association for PVC. Each of these PROs collect voluntary EPR fees from their members and use the revenue they generate to support the collection, sorting and recycling of recyclable materials by informal waste pickers, small and medium-sized collectors and large-scale mechanical recyclers.
The following are required for producers:
- Existing producers to register with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries from 5 May and no later than 5 November 2021 (as per the amended EPR regulations released on 15 January 2021).
- Join or form an EPR scheme that includes the entire value chain.
- Be accountable for the operation and performance of an EPR scheme.
- Pay the appropriate fees to the EPR scheme. Fulfil monitoring and reporting obligations – to begin Q1 2022.
The new Section 18 regulations are a welcome step forward towards a more collaborative approach between government and industry. As an industry, we are committed to continue working closely with government as this process unfolds. We urge you to start the process now by engaging with the relevant plastics industry PRO’s as soon as possible, as reporting against the gazetted targets starts in Jan 2022. For more information or guidance in this process, please Anton.Hanekom@plasticssa.co.za or visit www.plasticsinfo.co.za. Alternatively, contact the relevant PROs directly via their websites: