LETTER: Disposal of plastics is the real problem
Money from the national bag levy should be ring-fenced to create a recycling sector
Calls to ban plastic products is a simplistic response to a complex problem (“Greenpeace Calls for Nestlé to Act Over Single-use Plastics”, April 12). What’s required is a rational solution to the genuine crisis of plastic pollution, not an emotional reaction.
Many of those leading the call to “wage war on plastic” fail to understand the terrible effect alternative materials have on the environment. While it is tempting to imagine a world without plastic as some sort of environmental utopia, plastic in consumer goods uses four times less energy than alternative materials such as metal, paper and glass. In fact, alternatives to plastic packaging would nearly double greenhouse gas emissions.
The fact is that plastic — if disposed of correctly — is one of the most environmentally friendly products there is. And this is where the solution to plastic pollution can be found: in the correct disposal and management of plastic waste.
But to win the war on plastic pollution, everyone in the plastics industry must confront some hard truths. This includes us as the producers of plastics, but it also includes the government and consumers. We support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s quest to clean up SA, but it can only happen if there is a recycling revolution in this country.
We need the government to urgently fix SA’s inadequate waste management facilities and improve infrastructure for collection and recycling. It can create thousands of new jobs while safeguarding the 100,000 formal and informal jobs the plastics industry provides. The government can do this if it ring-fences the plastic-bag levy, which has increased from 3c per bag at inception in 2003 to 12c in 2018.
The nearly R2bn that has been raised through the levy so far should never have been absorbed into the black hole of our national fiscus. It should have been used to develop better recycling facilities and incentivise sustainable consumer behaviour.
Executive director: Plastics SA