Zolani Mahola leads ocean activists in beach clean-up for Ocean’s Month as marine plastic pollution becomes serious issue

Eco-activists, personalities and conservation influencers came together for a beach clean-up at Muizenberg, Cape Town, last Friday, June 18, joining Corona’s international movement to fight marine plastic pollution in recognition of Ocean’s Month.

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IFAT Africa 2021 cancelled

IFAT Africa, the continent’s leading trade fair for water, sewage, refuse and recycling, has been cancelled.

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Paper industry association opens applications to BSc students for its bursary and research programme

Johannesburg, June 2, 2021 – The Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) Masters of Engineering bursary programme is now open for applications for the 2022/2023 intake. A limited number of students will have the opportunity to further their master’s studies at participating universities by way of a R260,000 bursary over two years.

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The reuse revolution is coming—and not a moment too soon

Consumers Beyond Disposability

Are you ready?

Every society has wrestled with a fundamental problem: how to get rid of the stuff that people use. For most of human history, this has largely been a process of returning to nature items derived from nature herself: food scraps, broken pottery, and worn-out clothing made of simple materials such as leather, cotton, or wool. But the Industrial Revolutions that began in the late 1700s transformed our relationship with trash. For one thing, there was now a lot more of it. And for another, it now included stuff that’s foreign to the planet’s digestive system, such as plastics. 

The total amount of solid waste in the world has grown from 25 gigatons (yes, that’s 25 billion tons) in 1990 to 86 gigatons in 2020—and it’s projected to reach 140 gigatons by 2050. Fully half of all global plastic production is for single-use applications. That generates an unimaginable amount of garbage. To get a sense of just how ephemeral a “single use” can be, consider the average working life of a disposable plastic shopping bag: a mere 15 minutes, after which it will most likely linger for years, even decades, as … what? Most likely, it will be trash.

Less than 10 percent of all plastic waste has been recycled. And that’s the problem: waste stays waste. It gathers in ever-growing quantities on the land, in the sea, in the atmosphere. This pileup is becoming more costly—not only for the environment, but also for the companies that generate the waste. As a result, we may be on the verge of a profound shift in how we all look at the very concept of waste.

First, let’s look at the status quo we’ve all lived with until now. It’s characterized by a linear value chain, in which natural resources are extracted, converted for use, and ultimately disposed of or (occasionally) recycled. This is a dicey way to go on several levels. The number of critical raw materials is steadily increasing, and scarce resources are concentrated in a few major countries, which is causing price volatility and geopolitical imbalances around the world (see figure 1). Furthermore, gate fee prices and other extended producer responsibility policies are shifting the cost of discarded products onto manufacturers. 

Figure 1

As innovative—and necessary—as such pricing schemes may be, they still beg a fundamental question: Why do we generate so much waste in the first place? Instead of devoting resources to waste removal and treatment, why not go the extra step to waste elimination?

That’s where we begin to move away from the linear model and toward a future in which waste no longer stays waste—it’s reabsorbed into the productive cycle and repurposed. In such a future, the whole linear approach—in which a product’s existence follows a direct, finite, one-way line from manufacture to use to the trash heap—is replaced by a circular economy in which a discarded item is reused or recycled indefinitely.

There is mounting evidence that the circular economy would not only solve our waste and resource problem, but also create major financial benefits that don’t exist in traditional linear systems. All told, the circular economy could generate benefits worth $4.5 trillion worldwide—an amount almost equivalent to the entire GDP of Japan, the world’s third-largest national economy. 

As society’s most basic form of waste prevention, reuse is becoming central to any credible vision of a sustainable future. In this emerging circular economy, the old nexus between “growth” and rising piles of garbage gives way to something very different: a far more resilient model in which a product’s value is preserved, and even enhanced, over an extended life cycle. 

We see the shift toward reusable consumer goods occurring through choices and actions of the three driving forces of our economy:

The first driving force: changing consumer preferences

The most fundamental driving force of all—the one that makes the others possible in the first place—is a sharp move in consumer sentiment toward sustainability-oriented products and brands. 

A Kearney Earth Day study of US consumers conducted in April 2020—a time when the novel coronavirus was dominating news coverage and social-media commentary—found solid majorities of consumers saying they would be likely to bring reusable shopping bags to stores (59 percent) and carry reusable travel mugs, water bottles, or straws for drinks on the go (57 percent) over the following 12 months (see figure 2). 

Figure 2

There is much reason to believe that this consumer emphasis on sustainability is here to stay and will accelerate the shift toward reuse. One crucial variable is convenience: time-stressed customers will insist on it, and the pace of adoption for reuse systems will depend to no small degree on the success of efforts to make product disposal and reuse as friction-free as possible.

The second driving force: private-sector innovation and advances in technology

It’s one thing for consumers to want more choices sustainability options. But to actually generate those options in the marketplace, our second driving force needs to come into play: technological change driven by private-sector innovation.

There are some promising, powerful trends in favor of such innovation. Renewable energy is now below fossil-fuel prices (less than two cents per kilowatt-hour), and material and digital innovations enabling circular solutions are on the rise (see figure 3).

Figure 3

Far more is still to come, and the likelihood is that companies will first accelerate innovation in such relatively familiar areas as refill-at-home programs that evoke older commercial models such as milk and newspaper delivery. Other reuse models will gain scale with more time, more investment, and more familiarity among consumers and sellers alike. 

The third driving force: public-sector actions and initiatives

Several government incentives are under way to spur the transition to circular consumption models around the world, including a growing body of regulations that enforce circular-economy principles. Among the most visible pro-circularity policies are plastic shopping-bag bans, now in effect in several nations and subnational jurisdictions, including Italy, the United Kingdom, China, Australia, South Africa, and several US states and municipalities. The European Union has adopted the Circular Economy Action Plan, which aims to make sustainable products the norm, reduce waste, and lead global efforts toward reuse-centered consumption models. 

Another role of the public sector is to help enact the public–private partnerships that will be crucial to building momentum toward the circular economy. These partnerships will create unique levers for overcoming scale barriers such as financial viability and behavioral change. 

As these three driving forces propel global consumer goods toward reuse and refill systems, the time for companies to act is now. The prospect of transforming our trash from pollution to production isn’t just exciting to think about. It’s increasingly realistic—and increasingly necessary.

This article was developed through a collaboration with the World Economic Forum via the Future of Consumption Platform’s Consumers Beyond Disposability initiative.

Courtesy: www.kearney.com

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How to move from laggard to leader in the circular economy

The circular economy is characterised by closing the linear material cycles so that all end-of-life materials are used as input for new product cycles. This alternative way of doing business helps ensure a truly sustainable future. Achieving this transition would require unprecedented and radical change, given that today only around nine percent of all materials are reused with circular practices.

Our world faces a rising resource scarcity and waste problem. More than 100-billion tons of materials are processed globally every year—a staggering 13 tons per person—and more than 91 percent of these materials are newly extracted from the ground. The fundamental cause of these problems is the value chains that currently dominate our industries. Their linear nature systemically degrades our environment by promoting the extraction of finite resources and the disposal of materials at their end of life.

In a recent survey of about 150 companies across the globe, Kearney found that companies that have taken the lead in implementing and integrating circular initiatives into their operations are already reaping monetary and reputational benefits as a direct result of these activities.

The benefits of doing so are evident: our study shows that improved results from the implementation of circular practices do not accrue from differences in industry, company size, or material use but through deliberate choices in strategy.

The future is bright, the future is green

Increasing numbers of consumers are waking up to the fact that our linear economy of use and dispose has negative consequences for the planet. Most of society is worried about what will be left of the environment for their children if we don’t change the way we do business now.

A circular economy is defined as an economy where the value of products, materials, and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible and the generation of waste is minimised. Circular economy strategies have clear principles of action. They ensure that the value of materials is preserved for as long as possible to minimize the generation of waste. And they use all end-of-life wastes as new inputs to create products and materials that remain in use, while replacing fossil fuel and raw materials with renewables.

This approach is already driving dividends because customers “are the engine of top-line revenue growth” and there is increasing demand among them for green goods and services. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals—which aim to put the world on a more sustainable footing by 2030—present $12 trillion in market opportunities in four economic systems: food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and well-being.

This presents business leaders with a unique opportunity to transform their companies for the future by analysing and adopting best practices when it comes to the circular economy. By shifting priorities from pure profit to protecting the planet, corporations can solve problems and create popular services. “If they are successful at doing this,” the World Economic Forum (WEF) has noted, “shareholder long-term returns can increase, as society-in-general is better served.”

In our own circular benchmarking survey, we identified 34 percent of respondents as “leaders” in circular economy (see figure 1). These businesses reported more than five percent improvement in core key performance indicators (KPIs) after switching to circular economy approaches and business models. Around a third of those leaders reported revenue increases and cost savings (see figure 1, 32 percent and 38 percent leaders reporting respectively). But the circular approach does not begin and end with the bottom line: of this group, 50 percent reported an increase in customer loyalty and 70 percent an increase in brand recognition.

What’s special about circular leaders?

There is a clear difference in approach and behavior between those that currently lead the way when it comes to the circular economy and those that are transforming at a slower pace.

This is seen across industries and is clearly defined by the following three factors:

Setting strategy and targets

According to our study, about 40 percent of companies place circular economy on their sustainability agenda (see figure 2). But leaders in this field are much more likely to include it either as a stand-alone element or embed it within their business unit or functional strategy. In fact, 28 percent have formulated a road map to reach total circularity in the future, compared to only 7 percent for others.

The defining factor between those that lead and those that follow is an appreciation that establishing circularity is not merely an item to be added to the overall corporate social responsibility agenda—to improve reputation cosmetically—but to make the circular approach utterly integral to their core business.

A combination of first establishing, then maintaining, strategic focus and continuously employing measurable KPIs shows that focused circular activity produces tangible results.

Partnerships and relationships

Success in the circular economy is built on the power of partnerships: twice the share of companies that lead in this field are partnering with other entities within their own industry, across other industries, or with relevant NGOs compared to the rest of the respondents (see figure 3). This split is even higher when it comes to interactions with policymakers (three times) and investors and financiers (four times). Market leaders also engage much more actively within their value chain, with an especially strong differentiation when it comes to the supplier side (84 percent versus 53 percent) and the customer (74 percent versus 58 percent).

This illustrates how the new economy takes shape. A radical transformation of the way business is done—placing stakeholder needs on par with shareholders—means circular strategies must become fundamental: the circular economy cannot be effectively pursued by one company alone. By definition, the whole value chain plays a part, as do intricate interactions and interplay across industries. Material flows and dependencies will always be highly interconnected, and the very nature of circularity implies intimate links between all players.

Companies that aim to excel in the circular economy must take a comprehensive approach, establishing relationships with a large group of diverse stakeholders while developing, enhancing, and distinguishing their overall capabilities.

Internal resources and operating model

Appropriate investment of internal human resources is essential to developing circular economy models, and our data illustrates that 94 percent of our leaders dedicate staff to circular economy activities, compared to 52 percent for the other respondents (see figure 4).

Typically, most companies bundle their resources within their sustainability team or into a dedicated circular economy unit, or embed them directly within operations. Circular leaders, on average, appoint more than double the number of full-time employees to circular activities to establish the principles of the circular economy within their whole business.

The allocation of human resources is 2.5 times higher for circular leaders, which are on average committing six to 14 full-time employees (FTEs) for circular activities compared to other companies dedicating just two to six FTEs for this purpose.

Choose circular benefits

Leaders in circular endeavors exist in all industries (including services, consumer goods, chemicals, energy, materials, and metals and mining) and in companies of all sizes, with a slight overrepresentation among businesses valued at more than $2 billion (46 percent as compared with 33 percent) (see figure 5).

Comparing our respondents in terms of material use in their business, companies are still using on average 32 percent virgin nonrenewable sources. What differentiates leaders in this respect is a higher level of transparency when it comes to material use—in other words, leaders largely know where their material originates and have clarity on the supply chain players. Only a third of material origin remains unknown in leading companies as opposed to 44 percent unknown material use for followers. Nevertheless, supply chain transparency and material origins continue to be a challenge.

Circular pioneers demonstrate that introducing circular business models drives competitive advantage.

Take Desso. The 13,000-employee US company developed a new type of carpet that can be fully recycled and reprocessed whenever its customers want a change. Thus, they introduced a new product as a service model instead of just selling carpets. They live out their use and are then taken back to be used as raw material for new carpet. Within five years of implementing this strategy in 2007, Desso improved its EBIT from 1 percent to 9 percent and increased its EU market share from 15 percent to 23 percent while cutting energy consumption in half.

Household names are also keen to help create new economy. Swedish furniture giant Ikea is committed to achieving a fully circular business model by 2030. Currently, around 80 percent of its furnishings are produced in accordance with circular design principles and last year the company reduced its carbon footprint while continuing to grow.

Also, companies outside of manufacturing industries take inspiration from circularity as a concept. Cars are shared among multiple users via peer-to-peer platforms (such as Zipcar) and clothing is rented as needed (for example, Rent the Runway).

Such transformations clearly demonstrate that placing environmental considerations front and center can boost both a company’s financial performance and its future resilience. As the WEF has noted, “climate change, water management, and other aspects of environmental stewardship are increasingly recognized as bottom-line issues in a world where technology, regulation, and other features of the operating environment can change quickly.”

The circular nature of life

Our study shows that it is possible to reap benefits from integrating circular economy strategies and that those that lead in this field are already achieving monetary and reputational benefits.

Such success is rooted in developing a strong strategic focus in what the company wants to achieve with circularity, while building strong internal capabilities and using the power of partnerships to make such aspirations a reality.

Each industry is different, but the underlying principle is consistent. To date, most of the materials we use, we lose—and the value inherent in them is lost too, often after a very short period of time. This is a symptom of the old, linear way of doing business: the “take-make-waste” economy is not sustainable in the long term.

As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the path toward a circular economy should be made clear for future generations. This entails a radical shift in business models and a radical rethink of value creation today (see figure 6).

For some products, sales and ownership must become a thing of the past, and rental, sharing, or incentivized return a thing of the future. Envisioning such circularity has to begin at the design stage, but it will yield ever more profound benefits while slowing the seemingly irreversible impacts already wrought by industrial production methods to date.

Building in circularity from the start of the design process means less waste ending up in a landfill or openly dumped in nature. But not only this, it can lead to the design and manufacturing of better products, improved relationships with customers, and savings in energy and resources. Through design it will be possible to address the underlying causes of environmental challenges rather than struggling to cure the symptoms.

This may involve fundamentally reimagining business models: emphasizing access over ownership or prioritizing performance over new products, as well as keeping items in use for longer even as they are used more intensively. Strategy is vital to this and must be specifically tailored according to individual, carefully analyzed circumstances while keeping product functionality the same.

Companies of scale may use their size to drive circularity into the mainstream, enhancing their own brands with eco-credentials and inspiring others around the world to follow their lead. Smaller companies, meanwhile, may utilize their nimbler natures to invest in people and introduce faster changes to their products and services that appeal to their customers.

To address the needs of companies trying to understand and incorporate the benefits of the circular economy to maximize all potential benefits, we have developed a set of offerings to support companies throughout their entire circular journey (see figure 6).

The companies that do so will not only be ahead of the curve, they will lead the future cycle.

Courtesy: www.kearney.com

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Circular economy businesses outperform traditional competitors

With the concept of ‘circular business model’ still new, many are asking if it is necessary? And how does it differ from a linear economy?

Research undertaken by global consultancy Kearney has revealed that leaders who applied the same circular initiatives into their business models are outperforming traditional rivals.

“Is it necessary? Short answer is yes,” explains Prashaen Reddy, energy and process industries specialist partner at Kearney. “Our demand and needs are starting to outweigh our current resources. Circular economy comes down to the way we transform the way we do business, create goods and services to preserve the world around us.”

A linear economy is characterized by unsustainable processes, excessive pollution and resource scarcity as raw materials are mined, processed into a product, and then thrown away. To help ensure a future where there are enough raw materials and other necessities, all businesses will need to shift and create an economy that becomes circular. In this kind of practice, circular economy redefines economic growth moving away from a ‘take-make-waste model to one that aims at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources.

The South African government has implemented this new movement into different sectors of our economy, for example the introduction of the South African (SA) Renewable energy IPP Procurement programme. This tender process was designed and implemented to facilitate private sector investment into grid-connected renewable energy generation in SA.

In the budget speech delivered in February this year, government spoke to three energy projects that have been gazetted which will be supported through private sector investment to the value of R52.4-billion.

In September last year, the second big circular economy initiative saw cabinet approve the National Waste Management Strategy 2020 which aims at promoting the waste hierarchy and circular economy principles while achieving both socio-economic benefits and the reduction of negative environmental impacts.

Simply put, a circular economy is achieved by implementing the 3R approach: reduce, reuse, and recycle which is built on three key principles:

1. Design out waste and pollution.

2. Keep products and materials in use.

3. Regenerate natural systems.

Reddy continues, stating that the data from their survey comes at a critical time when the world is facing a rising resource scarcity and waste problem. Currently, over 100-billion tons of materials are processed every year and over 91% of these materials are newly extracted from the ground.

Applying such models has shown it can improve and increase our natural resources and help to decrease waste, plus have a positive effect on business output and profits.

The survey of 150 companies across the globe reveals the benefits of those who are engaging with circular economy models, with 34% of those surveyed, defined by Kearney as circular leaders, reporting a 5% or more improvement in core KPIs as a result of switching to circular products and business models.

In this group, 32% of respondents reported revenue increases, 38% reported cost savings benefits, 50% reported improvement in customer loyalty metrics and 70% an improvement in brand recognition. The survey also shows that it is possible to successfully implement circular strategies irrespective of industry and company size.

“We (Kearney) started measuring our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and offset unavoidable emissions over 10 years ago, supporting projects like hydropower and waste gas recovery. We have also prioritized the increase in the use of renewable energy in our offices and have set a goal to be at 80 percent renewable energy by 2025 and at 100 percent by 2030,” adds Reddy.

In the Fourth Industrial Age, it pays to be sustainable, and those who persist with the unsustainable “take-make-waste” economy will inevitably start to lag behind.

“Any business that is going to make the move from a linear to a circular economy requires a reconfiguration of nearly all business structures, which is where a comprehensive circular business strategy comes into play,” says Reddy.

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The Kipling | Coca-Cola Collaboration: luxurious, iconic fashionable bags

Kipling makes iconic fashionable bags from PET bottles

Kipling, a well-recognised and desirable fashion bag brand, sold in-store at Frasers, has partnered with Coca-Cola to produce an iconic range of bags in their Live.Light Responsibly campaign. The Kipling | Coca-Cola collab uses material from PET bottles, 272 129 of them now saved from landfill, woven into durable ripstop material in Coca-Cola’s famous red and white.

Kipling knows that we are responsible for the impact our products have on the planet and are committed to Live.Light by constantly reimagining designs, rethinking material, repurposing energy, and reconnecting to people and the planet.  

This collaboration for the Kipling SS21 collection is a refreshed and hip take on the brand’s efforts to be more responsible. We are confident our astute and stylish customers will appreciate and love the classic Coca-Cola look. Some of Kipling’s best-selling models have been revamped for this trendy partnership, like the Art Medium bag – a Kipling darling. All the new designs in the collab have fantastically fun zipper pulls inspired by aluminum can pull tabs.

For the collab, Kipling’s versatile Art Mini has a more subtle 3D embossed detail, reminiscent of the bubbly effervescence of the world’s favourite drink, with the Coca-Cola logo peering through. This over-the-shoulder is perfect for an evening on-the-go. Or check out Kipling’s stylish Creativity XB Crossbody, also available in the new Coca-Cola look, great for running errands or a night out on the town.

Kipling is committed to doing better by lightening their step on the planet one bag at a time. This partnership with Coca-Cola creates an optimistic and wearable message about how you can – and are – positively impacting our future. Kipling has always aspired to be more than a bag brand, but to represent a positive, light-hearted mentality, and a free-spirited, inclusive outlook on life. We hope this trendy, fun and responsible collab will inspire customers to live light, especially at a time when the world can feel pretty heavy.

Find the Kipling | Coca-Cola collaboration online at Kipling (www.kipling.co.za) or at a Frasers store near you. Sign up to the Kipling newsletter on the website and stand a chance to win a Kipling Art Mini Tote, valued at R2,599.95. Follow Kipling @KiplingSouthAfrica.

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SRK engineers, scientists support Jukskei river clean-up project

Starting at its source, exciting efforts to clean up the Jukskei River in downtown Johannesburg are gathering momentum – assisted by a range of organisations including SRK Consulting.

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10th annual Eco-Logic Awards opens for entries with three new categories

Entries are now open for the 10th annual Eco-Logic Awards hosted by the Enviropaedia.

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REPORT | Plastic: Past and present

Plastic is a complex material that provides value across several industries, yet its strength and durability have resulted in widespread persistence in the environment, threatening human health and the health of our marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. These negative externalities, once quantified, reveal the true costs of plastic.


Numerous global and regional initiatives and voluntary agreements have been established with different approaches to solve the plastic pollution challenge.


Since 1972, South Africa has ratified several international treaties, forged partnerships and subscribed to legal frameworks to combat plastic pollution in its terrestrial and marine environment. This is giving South Africa a firm footing to voice its concerns in global forums, on the one hand, and gaining access to the latest environmental considerations regarding the combating of plastic pollution, on the other. Various initiatives and platforms exist, and this list is not exhaustive.

2019: The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which South Africa is party to, at its 14th Conference of the Parties, adopted a decision to incorporate certain categories of plastic under its scope. This includes giving parties the right to prohibit the import of plastic at end of life as well as requiring parties to obtain prior written informed consent for the export of plastic of this nature. To be traded, waste plastic must be clean and consist of single or clearly defined plastic polymer types that can be recycled. Mixed bales of rubbish are not acceptable.

This decision obtained great media coverage and was a statement from the 187 countries to address the plastic pollution problem. Since then, the world has seen developing countries, specifically the Philippines and Indonesia, sending back shipments of plastic scrap and waste to countries of origin, including the USA, the UK and Australia.

South Africa became a signatory in May 1994. The Basel amendments will take effect from 1 January 2021.

2017: The G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter was agreed upon by the G20 countries (akin to the G7 Action Plan of 2015). The action plan includes a commitment to “take action to prevent and reduce marine litter of all kinds, including from single-use plastics and micro-plastics”.

South Africa is one of the G20 countries.

2015: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by all UN member states. A blueprint for achieving this agenda took the form of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs that specifically relate to combating plastic pollution are:

• SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation

• SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

• SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

• SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities

• SDG12: Responsible consumption and production

• SDG 13: Climate action

• SDG 14: Life below water

• SDG 15: Life on land

• SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals

2014: Several UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) resolutions have been made on marine litter and microplastics from the first UNEA meeting in 2014. These resolutions called for strengthening the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) role in acting on marine litter and microplastics in UNEA-1; establishing the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics in UNEA-3; and addressing single-use plastics in UNEA-4. Resolutions also call for greater collaboration and coordination of efforts to address plastic pollution.

South Africa is part of the member states participating in the UNEA discussions.

2011: The Honolulu Strategy: Global Framework for Prevention and Management of Marine Debris is a voluntary approach to connect marine litter programmes and foster collaboration among them by sharing lessons learned and best practices. It is the recommended framework to be used for UNEP’s GPA (see 1995 below).

South Africa is part of two Regional Seas Programme Conventions, namely the Abidjan and Nairobi conventions, which places it in a unique position to coordinate initiatives through both platforms.

The Abidjan Convention is currently undergoing a regional assessment on marine litter to inform a Regional Action Plan to address marine litter in member countries. The Nairobi Convention completed a marine litter assessment in 2008 and is currently implementing its Regional Action Plan.

1995: The Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) was set up in 1995 and is hosted by UNEP. The Global Programme of Action aims to foster collaboration and coordination among states to prevent marine pollution from land-based sources and encourage action at the national, regional and international level. The programme operates primarily through the Regional Seas Programme.

1982: Part XII (Articles 192–237) of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) aims to protect and preserve the marine environment from land- and sea-based sources of marine pollution. UNCLOS is a comprehensive convention that covers virtually all matters relating to the management and use of the ocean.

South Africa ratified UNCLOS on 23 December 1997.

1978: The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) aims to prevent marine pollution from operational or accidental causes by ships.

South Africa accepted participation in MARPOL in February 1985.

1972: Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping Wastes and Other Matter (the London Convention) and the 1996 Protocol to the London Convention (the London Protocol) aim to control pollution of the sea by dumping and to encourage regional agreements supplementary to the Convention.

South Africa is a party to the London Convention.


2020: President Cyril Ramaphosa is the chairperson of the African Union (AU) in 2020, presenting another opportunity for leadership in the case where the AU has also called on African cities to commit to recycling at least 50% of the urban waste they generate by 2023 and to grow urban waste recycling industries.

2019: In 2019 the African First Ladies took the lead on the plastics front by hosting two high-level side events. The first was on Banning Plastics towards a Pollution-free Africa Campaign, which resulted in the Addis Ababa Communique to advocate the banning of plastics. The second was on Plastic Pollution Solutions for Development in Africa to initiate the implementation of the Communique.

2016: The East African Legislative Assembly passed a Bill in 2016 to ban the manufacture, sale, import and use of certain plastic bags across its six member states, with a combined population of approximately 186-million people. A total of 127 countries have put into force some type of legislation to ban the use, manufacture, free distribution and import of plastic bags as at July 2018. African countries have been seen to be leaders in this regard, with 37 countries regulating plastic bags in some way.


The African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) held in Durban in November 2019, saw 54 member states endorse a declaration calling for global action on plastic pollution. Among the options to be further explored was a suggestion for a new global agreement to combat plastic pollution. African governments have now joined the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Pacific Island Countries and the Nordic states in their call for strong global action on plastic pollution.

The South African Minister of the Environment, Barbara Creecy, holds the AMCEN presidency for 2020/21, which is an opportunity for South Africa to take the lead on several topics, including addressing the plastic pollution challenge.


The New Plastics Economy is an ambitious global initiative to build momentum towards a plastics system that works. It applies the principles of the circular economy and brings together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging. The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is a shared vision agreed upon by businesses, governments and organisations to address plastic pollution at source. It is led by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation together with UNEP to drive engagement with governments and other key players.

The New Plastics Economy also hosts a global Plastics Pact Network, which is a platform for multiple national implementation initiatives. Each national initiative will be aligned with the common vision outlined in the Global Commitment but will set national targets and develop a roadmap to suit the local context. The South African Plastics Pact was launched by WWF South Africa in partnership with the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO) and the UK’s Water and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in January 2020. It is the first national Plastics Pact in Africa and joins the global Plastics Pact Network.


The South African Plastics Pact was launched in January 2020 and joined The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Pact global network aligned with the New Plastics Economy vision. The first of its kind in Africa, the South African Plastics Pact joins France, the UK, the Netherlands, Chile, Australia and the Pacific and the European Union to exchange knowledge and collaborate to accelerate the transition to a circular economy for plastic.

The South African Plastics Pact is managed and implemented by GreenCape, with the founding members committed to a series of ambitious targets for 2025 to prevent plastics from becoming waste or pollution.

The South African Plastics Pact members are Berry Astrapack, the Clicks Group, Clover, Coca-Cola Africa, Danone, Distell, HomeChoice, Myplas, Pick n Pay, Polyoak, Palletplast, RCL Foods, SPAR, Spur Holdings, The Foschini Group, Tigerbrands, Tuffy, Unilever and Woolworths. Supporting member organisations include the African Circular Economy Network, African Reclaimers Organisation, the City of Cape Town, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Fruit South Africa, the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa, the Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation, the Polystyrene Association of South Africa, the PET Recycling Company, South African Bottled Water Association, SAPRO and the Southern African Vinyls Association.

By 2025, all members commit to:

• Eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery models

• 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable*

• 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled

• 30% average post-consumer recycled content across all plastic packaging

*In the case of compostables, this is applicable only in closed-loop and controlled systems with sufficient infrastructure available or fit-for-purpose applications.

To achieve these 2025 targets for a circular economy for plastic in South Africa, various activities are required:

• Some plastic items are problematic or unnecessary and need to be designed out.

• Reuse models can reduce the need for single-use packaging, while at the same time holding the potential for significant user and business benefits.

• All plastics need to be designed to be reusable, recyclable or compostable in practice and at scale, with a concerted effort on both the design and the after-use side.

By delivering on these targets, the South African Plastics Pact will help to boost job creation in the South African plastic collection and recycling sector, and help to create new opportunities in product design and reuse business models.


Another global initiative is the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), which was founded by various global petrochemical companies. The alliance aims to raise funds in order to invest in developing and scaling up solutions to manage plastic at end of life, through education, innovation, clean-ups and investment in infrastructure in Southeast Asia. The fundraising and investment target is $1,5 billion, to be provided by the member organisations over the next five years.

Sasol is currently the only African-owned company which is a member of the Alliance.


The African Marine Waste Network is a project under the Sustainable Seas Trust. It aims to prevent marine litter at source by providing a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing through its network of government bodies, industry and civil society. Its current projects include developing and testing marine litter monitoring guidelines in collaboration with UNEP, developing educational materials for schools, promoting enterprise development and providing research expertise in ghost gear and microplastics.


The Commonwealth Litter Programme (CLiP) aims to support four developing countries (the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, South Africa and Belize) in preventing plastic litter from entering the marine environment. CLiP is led by the UK through the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and is funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).


The African Circular Economy Alliance is a project hosted under the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy by the World Resources Institute. It aims to share best practices, undertake collaborative projects and advocate for the circular economy between countries at a ministerial level. The alliance was founded by Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria in 2016, and joined by Niger, Senegal, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018.

Read the Green Economy Journal to find more articles like the one above


©Text 2020 WWF South Africa Published in 2020 by WWF – World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund), Cape Town, South Africa.

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