Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa announced an “ambitious new strategy”, the ‘Source to Sea’ initiative, to combat plastic pollution
“Marine pollution is one of the biggest challenges we face today and threatens fragile ecosystems,” she said in her budget vote speech on Wednesday.
She said South Africa had a number of measures in place to tackle this problem.
“The National Pollution Laboratory operated by the Walter Sisulu University has been established and laboratory work will soon be commencing. This will allow for in-depth analysis of the samples that could not be done in the field.”
She said South Africa was among countries that had endorsed the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Clean Seas Campaign aimed at stepping up international, regional and national efforts to combat marine litter.
“In implementing this campaign; I would like to announce the piloting of the department’s Source to Sea initiative. It is an ambitious new strategy to investigate, combat pollution, in particular plastic pollution which threatens both freshwater and marine ecosystems,” she said.
She said the government was committed to minimising plastic pollution.
“In line with resolutions taken at the UN General Assembly and UN Environmental Assembly respectively, this year we have conducted a plastic material study in collaboration with industry, the South African Bureau of Standards, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, the National Treasury and the Department of Health.”
She said the department was also consulting with the cosmetics industry to phase out the use of micro beads in cosmetics.
Molewa said her department, with the Department of Trade and Industry and Treasury, would also review the impact of the implementation of plastic bag policies.
“We will continue to work with the packaging sector – paper, glass, plastic and metal – to increase over and above 58% the amount of waste diverted from landfill,” she said.
Thuma Mina initiative
She said in response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Thuma Mina initiative, the department would be launching the ‘Keep South Africa Clean’ campaign “to mobilise every citizen to become environmentally conscious”.
“We want to see a South Africa free of litter and illegal dumping. The main purpose of this campaign is to change attitudes and behaviour towards waste – and enable people to take responsibility for keeping their communities clean.”
Molewa also said the department was reviewing the national waste management strategy for the third time.
At a press briefing before the budget vote debate, Department of Environmental Affairs director-general Nosipho Ngcaba said the department would look at various products that need to be phased out. She said some plastic products were a threat to marine life.
Molewa also said it was plausible that some plastic products, such as straws, would be banned.
“There is some plastic that is just not helpful, like straws,” she said.
She also said it was a concern that some plastic bags in use weren’t the required thickness for reuse.