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JOHANNESBURG - Mpact Plastics warned on Wednesday that the shortage of landfill sites in South Africa was creating problems for the country's recycling plans and causing a heavy load on the already overburdened system.

Mpact spokesperson Donna Noble-Marie said South African's should should start dealing with separating waste at source, in their own homes, and be encouraged to recycle so they keep the environment clean. 

Noble-Marie said that the country was not doing badly with its current policy framework despite being decades behind Europe and other developed countries in the management of waste and the shift away from landfilling towards prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery. 

Asked whether South Africa should not pursue a waste-management policy similar to Rwanda, Noble-Marie said there was room for improvement but the country was already proactive as it recycles about 70% of its waste.

"South Africa's biggest problem is that we are running short of landfill sites. A landfill site in Pretoria recently closed down. Municipalities are travelling further out and incur more costs to dump waste. We should start encouraging South Africans to start recycling at home and not mix the recyclables with waste. Government policies are on the right track and in place to encourage recycling," Noble-Marie said.

"There is a misconception that all plastics are bad. In fact, it's the single-use plastics like straws that are harmful to the environment. As Mpact, we process 600 000 tons of recyclables per year. We have the ability to recycle. The challenge has been on milk cartons as they need to have the plastic separated from the cardboard, but we have the equipment to do so now."

Wednesday was World Environment Health Day and this year's theme aimed to support the provision of more safe food, to make use of precious water and nutrient resources, and for communities to increasingly value sustainable food production.

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African News Agency (ANA)