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President Ramaphosa will announce a programme designed to place environmental care at the centre of South African culture.
“Because of environmentally insensitive human action, the forces of nature conspired to set in motion the dramatic process of climate change,” Ramaphosa said in his response to the debate on his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in February. The Good Green Deeds campaign would give effect to environmental stewardship concerns.
“When you produce plastic bags or cartons for milk, your responsibility is not only for production of that material, but it’s about how the product finds its [way] back into [the] system for recycling,” Department of Environmental Affairs spokesperson Albi Modise told News24 on Thursday.
Modise is in East London where the president is expected to formally announce the programme.
Direct threat to the environment
He said that consumer culture was a direct threat to the environment.
“Consume and throw away: In doing that you create more and more waste and some of that plastic finds its way into our oceans.”
The president linked climate change with poverty alleviation in his SONA debate response.
“We are all affected in different ways by the environmental changes taking place on land, in our oceans and in the air. Unless we tackle climate change, we will not be able to meet our developmental objectives.”
Some large South African retailers have decided to phase out selling single-use plastics, as a way to contribute to the reduction of plastic waste. On Wednesday, the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs discussed future legislative restrictions, or even a ban on single-use plastics, EWN reported.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), South Africans use between 30 kg and 50 kg of plastic per person per year – and much of that ends up in the oceans. The United Nations Environment Programme’s State of Plastics report for 2018 says that, by 2050, there will be about 12 billion tons of plastic in landfills, and plastic production may account for 20% of oil consumption.
“Plastic bags are often ingested by turtles and dolphins who mistake them for food. There is evidence that the toxic chemicals added during the manufacture of plastic transfer to animal tissue, eventually entering the human food chain,” says the report.
‘Sustainable relationship with our environment’
The organisation says that microplastics ingested by fish can enter the human food chain and that these particles have been found in 90% of bottled water and 83% of tap water.
“The idea is to galvanise our society to make sure that we do not litter. With the amount of waste you are creating, you are creating a space for recycle,” said Modise.
“It’s also about ensuring that we have a sustainable relationship with our environment.”
The programme was intended to have a long-term effect, he added.
“We did not put it as a project with a timeframe. We looked at it as a programme that is more societal in nature.”
South Africa may have taken inspiration for the campaign from India. Indian Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan launched the country’s Green Good Deeds campaign on February 5.
“We met with the Indians at the BRICS summit last year in Durban and they shared with us that model,” said Modise.