Panel discussion – Pavitray Pillay of the WWF-SA facilitated a panel discussion with Peter Skelton (Head of Strategic Partnerships at WRAP), Mandy Naudé (CEO of Polyco), Eric Leong Son (Group Head for Sustainability at Distell), André Nel (GM for Sustainability at Pick n Pay), Sinethemba Khameni (Packaging Sustainability Manager at Tiger Brands) and Johann Conradie (SAPRO)

SA Plastics Pact a first in Africa!

THE official launch of the SA Plastics Pact on 30 January saw a 100-seater conference room left with only standing room as key stakeholders in the plastics value chain – including businesses, governments and NGOs – gathered to learn more about this bold initiative.

The statistics about plastic pollution are overwhelming, but initiatives such as the newly launched and game-changing SA Plastics Pact aim to tackle the problem head-on by keeping plastics in the economy and out of the environment.

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, and sets out some ambitious targets to be met by 2025, including:

  1. Take action on problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models.

  2. 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable (in the case of compostables, this is applicable only in closed loop and controlled systems with sufficient infrastructure available or fit-for-purpose applications.)

  3. 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled

  4. 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

“Such a system rethink and redesign cannot be achieved by a single organisation working on its own. All stakeholders, including businesses, governments, NGOs and others need to collaborate. The South African Plastics Pact provides a platform for collaboration and concerted action,” said Justin Smith, head of the Business Development Unit at WWF-SA.

The first target, however, is to define a list of problematic/unnecessary plastic packaging and products and agree on measures to address these as a top priority. This will be effected through a coordinated effort led by a steering committee comprised of the Pact’s founding members and GreenCape, the Pact’s newly appointed administration office.

“The City of Cape Town is delighted to become the first municipality not just in the country, but worldwide to pledge its support,” said the City’s Mayco Member for Water and Waste, Xanthea Limberg.“The City’s role, as a supporting member, is to contribute to the development of solutions, amplify anti-plastic messages and cascade best practice. While the City can’t in its own capacity make commitments towards achieving the pact’s targets, it fully supports the initiative and its embedded principles. Goals, however, will not be achieved without collaborative industry action,” she added.

Global Plastics Pact network

The SA Plastics Pact is also the latest to join The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Pact global network, aligned with the New Plastics Economy vision. The first of its kind in Africa, the SA Plastics Pact joins France, Britain, the Netherlands and Chile to exchange knowledge and collaborate to accelerate the transition to the circular economy for plastic.

The Pact was developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA), in partnership with the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO) and the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). It has been developed for the South African context but also shaped by experiences of others in the global Plastics Pact network, in particular the UK Plastics Pact, led by WRAP.

The Pact’s founding members are Clicks Group, Coca-Cola Africa, Danone, Distell, HomeChoice, Massmart, MyPlas, Nampak Rigids, Pick n Pay, Polyoak, Polyplank, Shoprite Group, SPAR, Spur Holdings, Foschini Group, Tiger Brands, Tuffy, Unilever, Addis, Waste Plan and Woolworths. Other organisations include Fruit South Africa, SAPRO, the Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation, the Polystyrene Association of South Africa, PETCO, 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.

Supporting members 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.

The SA Plastics Pact was developed with funding support from the UN Environment, Sustainable Lifestyles & Education Programme, the UK’s Commonwealth Litter Programme, and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the British High Commission and the WWF Nedbank Green Trust.

GreenCape, will develop roadmap for 2025

One of the first actions for the SA Plastics Pact after the launch is the development of a high-level ‘roadmap’ for delivery to outline a detailed action plan to meet the 2025 targets – from all actors in the system. WRAP has secured funding to support this.

By delivering on these targets, the SA Plastics Pact will help boost job creation in the South African plastics collection and recycling sector and help to create new opportunities in product design and reuse business models. Following the launch, GreenCape, with the support of WWF-SA and WRAP, will develop the South African Plastics Pact roadmap for 2025 towards collective action in the local market with annual public progress reporting.

Lorren de Kock, WWF-SA project manager: Circular Plastics Economy, commented: “The SA Plastics Pact has 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.”

She said the SA Plastics Pact would support the development of a secondary resource or ‘circular economy’ in South Africa to drive investment in infrastructure, support livelihoods and keep the environment free of plastic pollution.

Speaking at the launch event, SAPRO chairman Johann Conradie said it was essential to make plastics too valuable to discard as pollution.

“The best way to keep plastic out of the environment is to make it too valuable to waste. If products are designed well and there is sufficient demand for it, we know that the South African entrepreneurial spirit will step in to ensure it finds a home. That is why the targets as set in the South African Plastics Pact are so important – to stimulate design of products to be reusable or recyclable and drive the use of recycled content in new products.”

Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy lead with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said the Foundation was looking forward to working with the SA industry and government.

“The Ellen MacArthur Foundation welcomes the announcement of the SA Plastics Pact, the first on the African continent to join the global Plastics Pact network. We are looking forward to supporting the government and industry of South Africa in driving real change towards a circular economy for plastics, by eliminating problematic and unnecessary plastic items, innovating to ensure that the plastics they do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and circulating the plastic items they use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.

“Together we can create a world without plastic waste or pollution,” said Derfruyt.