New report gives SA steps towards managing its plastic waste
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Cape Town - Plastic pollution is largely due to the dependency on a linear economy, but a new report provides practical steps on how to become a more circular economy.
A linear plastic system has led to increasing amounts of unrecycleable plastic waste ending up in landfills.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) discussed its new Plastics Facts and Futures Report last Wednesday, which explored the environmental and socio-economic impacts of plastic pollution, with a strong focus on how plastic packaging is a major contributor in the destruction of the natural environment.
WWF Circular Plastics Economy Programme project officer Zaynab Sadan said: “We are the consumers of plastic and it is important for us to understand the different lenses of this issue.
“We need to understand our consumption patterns and the type of lifestyle we want to live. We did our best to keep this info local and find information that can move South Africa forward.”
The report identifies plastic products beyond packaging that need to be given more attention – such as sanitary towels, nappies, cigarette butts and certain types of fishing gear which are not being well managed and contribute largely towards plastic leakage into nature.
Circular Plastics project manager Lorren de Kock said: “The report will highlight how we can adopt a common vision to prevent plastic from becoming a problem in the first place. Plastics is versatile, durable and lightweight, a good packaging material and the cheapest.
“It, however, threatens the health of the environment and marine ecosystem. The way that plastics are being managed is what’s causing a problem.”
She said plastic pollution was a complex societal issue requiring interventions at each stage of the life cycle.
“The current linear system economy is very wasteful and multifaceted with the problem, as it increases the production of virgin plastic.
“The system is dominated by the large dependency on fossil fuel production which also leads to spills such as the recent nurdle spill,” she said.
She said the price of virgin plastic at an all-time low and the falling oil price had led to massive investment into the procurement of virgin plastic which is the cheapest material.
This is impacting on the recycling industry, which has resulted in a lack of demand for recycled plastic materials.
WWF Switzerland No Plastics in Nature markets initiative lead John Duncan said: “We are often challenged with complexities in the plastic space before and post-Covid-19. Data is, however, becoming more accessible and provides us with good ideas on how to address change.”