Minister of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, supports extended producer responsibility and circular economy principles. She has challenged brand owners, packaging designers and manufacturers to design products that are not fit-for-purpose and environmentally responsible.
‘In addition to being one of the first ministers to engage with and be keen to work with industry, she’s pragmatic and wants to create practical solutions that address waste management and job creation needs,’ Shabeer reports.
The minister, he adds, is passionate about getting brand owners, retailers and converter/manufacturer PROs (producer responsibility organisations) involved in helping to educate communities, and establishing waste management facilities in poorer areas around the country, where 35% of households are not currently serviced. She has, for example, suggested PROs adopt schools where they can start recycling education and collection schemes; and brand owners and retailers adopt regions where they can establish recycling drop-off facilities.
In September, Shabeer represented the seven PROs at the three-day Waste Khoro in Kimberley. The three main priority areas to emerge were waste picker integration into the formal value chain, greater transparency around the pricing of recyclables, and the need for better collaboration with government, and particularly municipalities.
The Waste Khoro was followed by the minister’s briefing to the PPC (Parliamentary Portfolio Committee) in November where she recommended a focus on two primary questions regarding the Industry Waste Management Plan (IWMP). The first issue is whether the plan needs to be operated by the paper and packaging industry or by the state – taking into consideration whether all value chain role players and stakeholders buy into the plan or not. The second issue is who should fulfil the role of project co-ordinator and to what extent this office needs to be an independent referee or a role player representing all links in the value chain – for instance, collecting and transporting waste; operating depots; and engaging in product recycling, reuse projects or product development.
In response, committee members indicated they required more time and information from DEFF to help familiarise themselves with and understand the different aspects of the packaging waste management value chain.
As Shabeer points out, the IWMP (submitted as a federation of plans by Packaging SA) makes provision for the formation of a conduct committee consisting of representatives from DEFF, the Department of Trade & Industry and the waste picker fraternity to ensure transparency and accountability within the waste management process.
Industry upbeat following Plastics Colloquium
The industry’s final engagement for 2019 was helping to organise and participating in the Plastics Colloquium, held in Boksburg (Gauteng) towards the end of November. The Colloquium idea originated during an August meeting with the minister to update her on progress made by the SA Initiative to End Plastic Waste’s four working groups: Technology, Innovation & Design; Infrastructure; Bioplastics & Alternatives; and Education & Awareness (see full details in PPM October 2019 – Ed).
The minister was keen to expand the concept by incorporating civil society and waste reclaimers, providing a platform to showcase aspects of recovery and recycling projects already in place. She engaged frequently with PlasticsISA’s executive director, Anton Hanekom, and Consumer Goods Council of SA’s executive of Legal, Regulatory & Sustainability Affairs, Patricia Pillay (who is responsible for coordinating the Initiative’s activities) in organising the Plastics Colloquium.
It was attended by an estimated 500 people representing the entire plastics value chain – government, civil society, brand owners, recyclers, waste management companies, waste pickers, NGOs and SMMEs.
The Colloquium consisted of presentations, panel discussions and some 50 exhibitors demonstrating the plastics industry’s and other stakeholders’ commitment to extended producer responsibility, recycling and creating a circular economy.
During her address, the minister praised the work done by government and the private sector in establishing an infrastructure for the recovery and recycling of plastics, and by the informal sector in collecting much of the materials. She warned, however, that much more still has to be done, and underlined the need to harness the wealth of collective experience to reconsider the complex plastics pollution problem and create a comprehensive and holistic plan in line with circular economy principles. ‘Waste can be converted into value – every ton that ends up on dumpsites only creates one job opportunity. However, every ton that gets recycled creates 18 jobs,’ she emphasised.
Key to creating a circular economy is ensuring that plastic products and packaging are designed with recyclability in mind. To this end, the minister issued a challenge to brand owners, packaging designers and manufacturers to design products that are not only fit-for-purpose but also environmentally responsible.
‘We found it hugely reassuring to hear that the minister shares our passion to get South Africans recycling and separating their waste at home. By implementing effective waste management services at municipalities around the country, we’ll be able to access good quality, recyclable waste and reduce the burden on our country’s landfills. This will also be a major step forward in preventing plastics from entering our rivers and, eventually, the sea,’ says Anton Hanekom.
Looking ahead and explaining the next steps, Anton reports that the minister and her team, in consultation with the plastics industry, is drawing up a Master Plan, consisting of targets and timeframes.
The SA Initiative to End Plastic Waste’s working groups will continue developing evidence-based solutions that fit South Africa’s context and provide
the minister with quarterly feedback on progress.
‘A second Plastics Colloquium has been proposed for 2020 to monitor progress made and ensure that proposed plans are effectively implemented,’ Anton reports.
In a surprising development – following the minister’s requests for the two voluntary plans, submitted before the mandatory plan, to be sent directly to her office and more time to think about various issues before engaging further with industry on the plan – she published a withdrawal of the Section 28 Notice calling for the paper and packaging, electrical and electronic plus lighting IWMPs in the Government Gazette on December 13.
According to the notice, after considering the IWMPs, the minister concluded that she couldn’t approve any of them because they don’t comply with the criteria stipulated in the Section 28 Notice.
Her view is that a new approach centred on extended producer responsibility principles, rather than a government collected levy/tax, is required to achieve the same objectives, which were intended when the Section 28 Notice was initialised.
She, therefore, intends to engage further with industry around the specified measures that must be taken in respect of the class of paper and packaging products as contemplated in section 18(1) of the National Environmental Management Waste Act of 2008.
‘Industry welcomes the move by the minister and looks forward to working with DEFF on further development of the EPR model – which has been working very successfully for many years as voluntary industry initiative – to achieve the national waste management objectives for packaging and paper,’ Shabeer concludes.