Fantastic! Plastics, packaging industries hail govt U-turn on waste plan

22 January 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202017674

Forestry, Pulp & Paper
Government & Municipal
Green Industries & Renewable Energy
Packaging
Plastics & Rubber

THE plastics and packaging industries of South Africa have welcomed the announcement Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, to scrap the existing Section 28 plan for developing an Industry Waste Management Plan.

Although the development of this plan had already been more than three years in the making, Creecy announced in December that she would be starting an entirely new process under Section 18, as this would allow for an industry-managed plan as opposed to a government-managed plan.

Packaging SA Executive Director Shabeer Jhetam admitted that the announcement had come as a surprise and said that the organisation welcomed the minister’s decision.

“Despite the fact that a considerable amount of time, money and effort have been invested to prepare and submit our Federation of Plans which represented the entire packaging industry, we believe the minister has made the right decision. Through our engagements with her over the past few months, we were able to introduce her to the excellent work done by the various packaging streams through their various Producer Responsibility Organisations.”

He said that as a result of their “consistent and concerted efforts” South Africa had managed to grow its recycling figures on a yearly basis over the past 10 years to become one of the world leaders in mechanical recycling. “We are sending less material to landfill thanks to lightweighting and progress in developing a circular economy for each industry.

“A government-managed plan would have had the potential of nullifying these achievements and making it more difficult for these organisations to access the funds needed to fulfil their mandates,” Jhetam said.

Commenting on behalf of the plastics industry, Plastics|SA’s Executive Director Anton Hanekom said they too were relieved to learn of the minister’s decision to develop a new plan under Section 18 of the Waste Management Act, in close consultation with industry representatives.

“We have always advocated for an industry-managed plan where the producers of packaging materials are held responsible for managing their waste through belonging to industry bodies that represent their interests and drive their own recycling and collection efforts.

“The failure of previous initiatives such as Buyisa e-Bag and Redisa triggered serious warning bells for us and highlighted the need for proper governance, transparency and credibility. For this reason, we agree that the industry be left in charge of their own funds and projects, albeit with very close cooperation and direct accountability to Government,” Hanekom said.

Department Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Director General Nosipho Ngcaba provided clarity on why none of the submitted plans were approved. She also reported that according to Treasury, there were no funds available for a Government plan.

“A total of 13 industry plans were submitted to the Minister for consideration of which the Paper and Packaging industry submitted seven, the Electrical & Electronic industry submitted five and the Lighting industry one.
“The Minister has sent letters to each of the parties who submitted plans, spelling out the reasons why she rejected the specific plan. However, throughout the entire process it has become abundantly clear that none of the plans meet the criteria of a Government Managed Model, and that a Section 28 plan is therefore no longer the best route to take.”

Ngcaba said that in order to expedite the process, the minister wanted to return to the drawing board as soon as possible to develop a workable plan. “Receiving the support and buy-in of the industry is vital if this plan is to succeed,” Ngcaba was reported as saying.

She said a framework needed to be developed that would include clear targets for each sector, with quarterly and annual reporting, the minimisation of waste and encouragement of recycling. The first of these engagements was set to take place early in February 2020 and will require input in terms of a possible structure and future cooperation between industry and government.

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