A pact to stop plastic pollution

South Africa has joined a global network to help foster international collaboration in stopping fighting plastic pollution.

Known as Plastics Pact, it is a first for Africa and was launched last week by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA) at the 15 On Orange hotel. 

It joins the global Plastics Pact Network, co-ordinated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with existing members from Chile, France, the Netherlands and Britain the UK. 

The Africa pact founding members include many South African retailers, manufacturers and recycling companies.

Johann Conradie, chairman of the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO) and director of Myplas recycling company in Bellville, says they have been working on the project for 14 months with WWF-SA and international partner Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Mr Conradie said the aim of the pact was to change the way businesses, government and citizens thought about plastic. 

“With eight billion people on Earth, we cannot do without plastic, but we need to stop it from ending up in the environment, or nature. And we need to use plastic as a resource in a circular economy which creates jobs as opposed to banning plastic, which does not create jobs,” said Mr Conradie.

At the launch, WWF-SA project manager Lorren de Kock said there was a global need to move towards a circular economy for plastics. 

“We have 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 pact, we can support the development of a secondary resource or circular economy that will drive investment in infrastructure, create jobs and keep our environment free of plastic pollution.”

Juliet Lennon, of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said research shows that eight million tons of plastic leaked into the oceans annually. If that didn’t change, there could be more plastics than fish in the sea, by weight, by 2050.

The pact aims to change the way plastic products and packaging are designed, used and reused to prevent plastics from ending up in the environment so that by 2025, 100% of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
Mayco member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg said it was necessary to identify unnecessary plastic packaging and products. 

“This will be effected through a co-ordinated effort led by a steering committee comprised of the pact’s founding members and GreenCape, the pact’s newly appointed administration office,” said Ms Limberg.

The City, on its own, couldn’t commit to achieving the pact’s targets but it supported the initiative and its principles, she said, noting that the goals couldn’t be achieved without collaborating with industry.
According to Mr Conradie, the supporting partners include the Clicks Group, Coca-Cola Africa, Danone, Distell, HomeChoice, Massmart, Myplas, Nampak Rigids, Pick n Pay, Polyoak, Polyplank, Shoprite Group, SPAR, Spur Corporation, TFG, 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.

For more information, or to join the SA Plastics Pact, email info@saplasticspact.org.za