The Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries heard that an outright ban on plastic bags would have far-reaching negative implications for employment at a time when the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has caused huge unemployment.

The committee was briefed on Tuesday by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on the single use of plastics, extended producer responsibility and the recently gazetted legislation on plastics.

It also received a briefing from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development on the implications of the Meat Safety Act.

Responding to suggestions for an outright ban on single-use plastic bags, which Members of the Committee said pollute the environment, the leader of the departmental delegation Minister of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy said a ban would cause unemployment, as it would lead to the closure of plastic bag manufacturing factories.

To strengthen the call for a ban on certain plastic materials, Members of the Committee referred to other African countries that have banned the use of plastic bags to ensure safe environment.

Creecy said there are laws in place to curb the pollution caused by plastics, but these are not adhered to.

“We don’t have a mechanism in place to enforce those laws,” she said.

She said her department is collaborating with consumer councils to negotiate ways of packaging fast foods products and to find ways to reduce the use of plastics in packaging.

During the briefing on the implications of Meat Safety Act made by the Department of Agriculture’s Dr Mphane Molefe, the committee heard that the slaughter of any animal for the sale of its meat must be done by a legal abattoir and the animal must be handled in a humane manner for that purpose. Animals may only be slaughtered outside an abattoir for cultural purposes, and this must be done humanely and hygienically.

The Chairperson of the committee, Mr Fikile Xasa welcomed the presentations and thanked the departments.

“The presentations have broadened and enriched the understanding of the committee on the issues that have been presented. The presentations have certainly added a remarkable value and the committee is different now than before the presentations,” said Mr Xasa.

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