Plastics are fundamental to our everyday lives; they are a versatile and low-cost alternative that helps protect and deliver the products we consume. They offer various benefits, such as being lightweight, which reduces carbon emissions during transportation compared to other materials. Plastics also contribute to prolonging shelf life, reducing food waste, and can be reusable and recyclable. However, the current design and use of plastics often result in single-use items that are disposed of or even littered. In South Africa, less than half of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, with the remainder ending up in landfills or polluting the environment, cities, and impacting people’s health.
To address plastic pollution, we need to fundamentally rethink the way we design, use, and reuse plastics. Achieving a system-level change and redesign requires collaboration among organizations and individuals involved in producing and using plastic packaging.
The South African Plastics Pact (SA Plastics Pact) is a collaborative platform that brings together businesses, governments, NGOs, and industry associations with the shared vision of a circular economy for plastics. By committing to four ambitious targets to address plastic waste and pollution at its source by 2025, the pact aims to drive positive change.
Under Target 1, SA Plastics Pact members have pledged to eliminate problematic or unnecessary packaging items by 2025. Through collaboration, members have identified 12 plastic items to be eliminated by the end of 2022. To achieve this, members are required to develop and adopt the best solutions, such as phasing out unnecessary items, substituting them with well-recycled materials, innovating for reuse, or redesigning products to eliminate the need for packaging. It is important to consider and avoid any unintended consequences when eliminating these items. Substituting materials should not create additional negative environmental impacts, and changes in packaging should not increase food waste in the South African market.
In addition to the 12 priority items, ongoing investigations will identify other items that may be included in a phase 2 list. Addressing items on this list may require longer timescales and involve partnerships with key players to improve recovery, increase recycling capacity, or facilitate access to new technologies.
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