Rise to the challenge of a plastic-free July

Plastic Bags Source: Google Images

The City of Cape Town is joining the call from the Plastic Free Foundation to minimise plastic pollution during the month of July.

Plastic Free July is a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution, so we can have cleaner streets and oceans, and beautiful communities. The movement aims to create a platform on which to share ideas for how to minimise plastic pollution, and motivate people to be a part of the solution.

Waste produced by households and businesses poses a significant challenge to the waste disposal industry. This makes it everyone’s responsibility to reduce waste wherever possible, and to find environmentally responsible ways of diverting waste from landfills.

The City of Cape Town has developed a suite of resources where any resident can learn how to minimise their negative impact on the environment. The City’s Smart Living Handbook gives detailed background, guidance and ideas on how to do this.

Some top tips include:

  • Use refillable cups at your local coffee shop, or reusable containers for takeaways where possible
  • Avoid take-away straws and cutlery where possible – rather bring a set with you
  • Buy only what you need
  • Buy in bulk and cut down on products with lots of packaging – refills and concentrates generally require less packaging
  • Take your own bags to grocery stores
  • Buy products that are made from recyclable or recycled materials
  • Choose durable products that won’t need to be replaced often
  • Avoid buying disposable products where possible

‘Consumers have enormous buying power and in the light of the promulgated Extended Producer Responsibility regulations, we urge all residents to challenge retailers about their plastic packaging,’ said Mayoral Committee Member for  Urban Waste Management, Alderman Grant Twigg

Furthermore, Plastic-free July is a good platform to remind Cape Town that the City has been working for some time to create a legislative and policy environment that facilitates waste minimisation, including the reduction of single-use plastic. In terms of the 2009 Integrated Waste Management By-law, all businesses and industries that generate waste are required to have a waste management plan in place, which includes:

  • Assessment of the quantity and type of waste that will be generated;
  • Description of the services required to store, collect, transport and dispose of such waste;
  • Description of how they intend separating recyclable and non-recyclable material at the point of source;
  • Waste minimisation and pollution prevention plans of such waste generator;
  • Impact or potential impact on the environment of the waste created by them;
  • Type or characteristics of waste produced of an environmentally sensitive nature or the amount of natural resources that are consumed in the manufacturing or production process that result in waste; and
  • Targets for waste production through waste minimisation, re-use, recycling and recovery measures or programmes that can minimise the consumption of natural resources and the method of disposal of waste.

Such a waste management plan should not just be seen as a regulatory requirement, but as a tool to operate your business more efficiently, resulting in savings due to less resource wastage.

More in-depth information and advice on reducing or recycling your packaging waste can be found at the following links:

For the City’s part, one example of a successful way it is minimising plastic is the Fifty/50 wheelie bin initiative, where new wheelie bins are made from 50% recycled bins, recovered from customers’ damaged bins. The initiative has diverted more than 1,2 million kgs of condemned bins from landfill. The initiative has also saved the City between R25,00 and R28,00 per Fifty/50 wheelie bin purchased, equating to approximately R1,5 million per year since it was initiated in November 2014.

  • This initiative was one of the waste minimisation interventions that earned the City joint first place in the Local Authority Recycling Innovation category in the Petco awards in March 2021. Furthermore, the Fifty/50 bins were named 2015’s ‘Best Recycled Product of the Year’ by the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation, which was the first ever government entry into this competition, beating more than 30 other product finalists in four different categories.

‘We call on residents to avoid single use plastic in their lives using the tips outlined above, and businesses (including informal businesses), to ensure they have a waste management plan in place. It is really amazing how much waste you can avoid if you live, work and shop with waste minimisation in mind.

‘There are many difficulties and challenges that come with establishing new landfills, and developing a culture of waste minimisation is key to relieving pressure on our existing facilities while new sites are being established for Cape Town. If all of our four million residents can do just a little bit better to reduce their footprint on the planet, the combined impact can be very significant,’ said Alderman Twigg.

The City is concerned about the impact of plastics, including micro-plastics, on our marine and coastal environment. As such, the Environmental Management Department has undertaken various projects in an attempt to reduce the quantity of plastic entering our coastal environment. These include:

  • Partnering with research institutes to better understand key sources of plastic, and how plastic circulates in the coastal environment
  • Public awareness and educational campaigns on plastic use and litter reduction
  • The trialling of ‘no bin’ zones in the coastal zone to encourage members of the public to take waste home
  • The installation of litter nets at stormwater outlets and booms at canals

‘Plastic pollution is a major challenge given the multiple sources from extensive geographic areas, including from international waters, and the longevity of plastic in the natural environment. The City remains committed to reducing plastic entering our natural environment and will continue to explore solutions, including the potential for public-private sector partnerships, to have a meaningful and positive impact on plastic pollution,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Alderman Eddie Andrews.

Capetonians can also divert residential or commercial waste recyclables from landfill via several waste management services, including drop-off sites, private recycling collection services or buy-back centres, industrial symbiosis and waste exchange or community-based programmes.

The City also runs a residential recycling collection service (known as Think Twice) in some areas at the moment, which is planned to expand progressively. Residents can check if they fall within the Think Twice areas, as well as find private waste management companies throughout Cape Town on the map:  Waste Recyclers Map (capetown.gov.za). It is imperative that we actively participate in our local waste minimisation programmes and in so doing we will reduce our impact on our beautiful environment.

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