Bid to address plastic bag litter problem

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy. File Photo.

Creecy noted the intention to amend the regulations was published in Government Gazette 43601 (Notice No 869) on 7 August and emanates from the review of all policies affecting plastic bags in the country.

Comment has been invited on the intention to amend the Environment Conservation Act Plastic Carrier Bags and Plastic Flat Bags Regulations.

“Plastic waste has not only become a challenge in diverting it from going to landfill sites, but has grown to be one of the most problematic waste streams that continues to harm the environment,” said Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy in a statement yesterday.

“Plastic waste is mostly common in illegal dumps, landfill sites and rivers and, ultimately, ends up in oceans causing harm to marine life.”

Creecy noted the intention to amend the regulations was published in Government Gazette 43601 (Notice No 869) on 7 August and emanates from the review of all policies affecting plastic bags in the country.

The review included determining the improvements required for a possible amendment to the memorandum of understanding between government, business, and labour.

It assessed whether the intended objectives of addressing the plastic bag litter problem and the promotion of the reuse and recycling of plastic carrier bags have been achieved and if any improvements are needed.

Among the areas aimed at raising awareness and strengthening the compact between government, business and labour was the hosting of the Plastic Colloquium by Creecy in November 2019.

As a result, the department was developing a plastics master plan with targets, timeframes, actions and specific goals to ensure that actions discussed at the colloquium are implemented.

“Among the most important amendments to the regulations is the prohibition of the manufacture, trade and distribution of domestically produced and imported plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags that do not meet outlined specifications for use within South Africa,” Creecy said.

“The proposed amendments focus on post-consumer recyclate material generated by households or by commercial, industrial and institutional facilities in their role as end-users of the product.”

The amendments also states that plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags must be made from a minimum of 50% post-consumer recyclate from 1 January 2023, 75% of recycled materials from 2025 and must comprise 100% post-consumer recyclate from 2027.

Any person who contravenes the regulations could face a fine not exceeding R5 million or five year’s imprisonment.

In the case of a second or subsequent conviction, the person could be imprisoned for up to 10 years or face a R10 million fine.

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