Advancing Circular Economy in South Africa: Summary Report (CSIR)

June 5, 2023

Transitioning to a circular economy (CE) for plastics is widely acknowledged as being critical for addressing the issue of plastic leakage, while potentially bringing a range of additional socio-economic and environmental gains. The resolution adopted at UNEA5.2 to develop a legally binding global treaty (by 2024) for addressing plastic pollution will provide a strong global driver for the transition to a circular plastics economy.

The World Bank Group appointed CSIR to conduct a study to map and assess existing activities around the circular economy of plastics in South Africa and to support the South African Government in developing a roadmap to advance the circularity of plastics.

The objectives of this assignment were:

  • to provide a comprehensive overview of current circular economy initiatives in SA (see the accompanying baseline report);
  • to frame the circular plastics economy in the SA context; and
  • to inform the development of a roadmap for advancing a circular plastics economy in SA, by providing a set of recommended short-, medium- and long-term interventions required to transition towards a circular economy pathway.

Given this focus on reducing leakage of plastics to the environment, a decision was made to delimit the scope of the study primarily to plastic packaging and other single-use plastic items; which are particularly problematic from a leakage perspective.

Consistent with the original Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) notice to producers of paper, packaging and some single-use products (DFFE, 2020), we define packaging and single-use plastic as follows:

  • packaging: any material, container or wrapping used for the containment, transport, handling, protection, promotion, marketing or sale of any product or substance, which may be primary packaging, containing the actual product; or secondary packaging or tertiary packaging, typically containing products already packaged in primary packaging; and
  • single-use plastic: disposable plastics (petrochemicals, compostable or biodegradable), that are commonly used for plastic packaging [or for] items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled, including but not limited to food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, tubs, cups and cutlery.

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Title: Advancing Circular Economy in South Africa: Summary Report (CSIR)
Published: 2022

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