Plastic is not just an environmental issue, but it is also a socio-economic one.
Plastic has been around since the 1950’s and unsurprisingly, plastic products are used by almost every sector of the economy.
Projections are that the global plastics economy is growing at a rate of 4% annually. The South African economy benefits from this growth because the plastic products industry contributed around R76 billion to the economy in 2016.
According to Plastics SA, 60 000 people are employed in the plastics industry of which 47 000 are employed in the plastic products manufacturing sector.
In addition, about 53% of South Africa’s total plastics consumption goes into the packaging sector and most of this is for single use packaging applications.
Going forward, important consideration must be made in regards to how we reduce certain plastics from our value chain, particularly single use.
Another concern is the issue of micro plastics. Plastic waste has been found to undermine the flood absorption and water storage capacity of our wetlands. It threatens catchments, river systems and estuaries and the crucial services they provide for people and nature.
As the regulator phases out or restricts the use of those materials, there is growing demand for biodegradable and compostable plastics.
“But they also need to be properly researched and understood. And, if they are to have a place in our value chain they need to be regulated with appropriate registration and standards,” said Barbara Creecy, Minister: Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said.
Speaking at the recent Plastic Colloquium held in Gauteng, Minister Barbara Creecy pointed out the important role behaviour change will have in reducing plastic waste.
“Those of us who separate our waste at home must wash out containers before we dump them; those of us who like fast food need to demand alternative products to package our burgers, chicken and our coffees; when we shop we must take our recycled shopping bags and not demand new plastics.”
The recent Plastic Colloquium focussed on research, awareness campaigns, international best practice in tackling plastic waste.