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25 Aug 2020

Public invited to comment on amendments to plastic bag regulations

(Northglen News) Picture: Among the most important amendments 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.

Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, said: “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. Plastic waste is mostly common in illegal dumps, landfill sites and rivers, and ultimately ends up in oceans causing harm to marine life.”

The intention to amend the regulations was published in Government Gazette 43601 (Notice no. 869) on 7 August.  The amendment emanates from the review of all policies affecting plastic bags in the country. This included inputs from stakeholders directly and indirectly affected by policies relating to plastic bags and their management at post-consumer stage. 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 re-use and recycling of plastic carrier bags have been achieved, and if any improvements are needed.

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. 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 state that the plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags must be made from a minimum of 50 per cent post-consumer recyclate from 1 January 2023, 75 per cent of recycled materials from 2025 and must comprise 100 per cent post-consumer recyclate from 2027. In terms of the amendment, any person who contravenes the regulations could face a fine not exceeding R5 million or five years 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.

Members of the public are invited to submit their comments by 7 September.   Written representations or objections to the proposed amendments can be sent by post to: The Director-General: Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Attention: Ms Pamela Nxumalo, Private Bag X447, Pretoria. By hand to:  Environment House, 473 Steve Biko Road, Arcadia, 0083 (Attention: Ms Pamela Nxumalo) or email to:  pnxumalo@environment.gov.za.

Anyone entering the department’s building will be subjected to Covid-19 procedures.