Beyond infrastructure plans – SA needs action, regulation to overcome water and waste crises

Major long-term infrastructure plans are necessary, but South Africa also needs to take immediate action to overcome current water and waste management problems and looming crises.

Stakeholders across the water, wastewater and waste management sectors report growing frustration at the lack of progress in averting crises, despite years of discussion and planning. Pointing to critical failures in water and wastewater service delivery and a looming crisis in landfills and waste management in much of the country, experts say South Africa appears to lack the will to take real action.

The experts emphasize that sustainable action plans must be implemented as a matter of urgency, with the government committing to enabling these plans, and independent regulators assigned to enforce their implementation. By moving now to address water and waste management problems, South Africa has an opportunity to delay or even avoid crises, and also to spark much-needed job creation in many sectors.

Urgent action needed on Water Master Plan

The National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, designed to guide the water sector with investment planning for the development of water resources and the delivery of water and sanitation services, does address key issues, but falls short in some respects – notably that it is built on outdated data, that the situation has changed since it was drafted, and that little or no progress has been made in implementing it, stakeholders say.  

They urged the government not to delay further, and instead of attempting a massive and costly effort to address all challenges at once, to immediately start rolling out ‘quick win’ initiatives. Independent regulators to oversee the environments would be key to overcoming the current challenges, they noted.

“A plan without action is nothing really. If the goals of the water plan were achieved, we would see employment, empowerment, an improvement in the quality of water as a natural resource. But you need the political will and intent to start the process, and the funding will follow.”

Wayne Taljaard, Managing Director at WEC Projects.

Progress in the water and waste sectors are foundational to driving investment, economic progress and job creation, say stakeholders. Benoît Le Roy, Environmental, Technology & Project Alchemist, says: “Water is a fundamental economic enabler, so to attract investment you need to address the water challenges. A real problem is that all of our infrastructure is ageing, and by a decade ago our water reserve was 98% allocated. Investors know this and without water security, they won’t invest.”

“Government at the national level understands the realities, but addressing all the challenges is a massive task and we need to see all stakeholders working together, as well as the introduction of an independent regulator.”

New approach to PPPs needed

To help fast-track progress, traditional Public-Private Partnerships models should be re-programmed to create more collaborative and viable partnerships, they say. These new models could include outsourcing maintenance contracts, enabling private sector stakeholders to implement, own and manage key technologies, and bringing in independent water and waste providers as subcontractors to state entities.

The private sector approach in moving quickly, and applying new technologies and industry best practice can address problems quickly and efficiently, say the experts. In contrast, traditional government consultation and procurement processes tend to slow progress down to a virtual standstill. Frustratingly, they say, government departments seem reluctant to accept offers of assistance from the private sector – even when it is offered for free.

Says Dean Mulqueeny, Group Executive – AECI Water: “We have made offers to some municipalities to give them certain pieces of technology without any cost to them, which was unfortunately declined. During the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, we went directly to schools and a clinic at Hammanskraal to offer our assistance and fortunately the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality agreed. We invested around R3-million and got clean running water to 5 000 people within two months.”

Delays to drive skills out of SA

“There really is a lot of work in the pipeline in future – the Master Plan states R900bn which is R90bn per annum, that is more work than the water-related industry in South Africa could handle over the next ten years.”

Taljaard notes that if water and waste projects do not start soon, South Africa also risks losing key skills. “But we need to do something before all of these businesses shut their doors. The economy is in crisis, cash reserves are running low, there is no envisaged new work in the short- to medium-term, and people are downsizing their businesses or closing down. What happens next is the experienced people and the up-and-coming expertise goes abroad, so when the situation does turn in a few years’ time, we will have a major skills crises and we will have to import skills.”

Private sector approach needed to address waste management

Waste management consultant Kobus Otto says metros in parts of the country are facing a health and environmental crisis, as they are running out of landfill space and no progress has been made in developing new landfill sites.

“We have beautiful plans and pieces of legislation in South Africa, but little in the way of implementation and enforcement. Unless legislation and policies are enforced, they aren’t worth the paper they are written on,” he says.

Instead of current approaches that involve lengthy planning without sufficient research, the public sector should model its efforts on the private sector approach, which seeks to identify sustainable quick wins that are appropriate for the market or community they are deployed in. “For example, it would be far more cost-effective to make well managed landfill and public dumping facilities available within easy reach of communities, instead of continually having to clear illegal dumping – which is a huge expenditure annually,” he says.

Otto believes private sector approaches can go a long way toward solving the problem:

“We need to use Africa’s brainpower appropriately. We need to formalise informal systems and create markets and opportunities, which could create many new jobs and businesses.”

No room for further delays

Mulqueeny says: “The longer we wait to address the issue, the harder it is to fix. We need to start somewhere and work more closely together to make improvements. There are systems and technologies that could make significant improvements very quickly, and the private sector has the expertise and will to help the government deploy them.”

Suzette Scheepers, CEO of IFAT Africa presenters Messe Muenchen South Africa, says: “Collaboration and communication is the only way to address these challenges in a sustainable way. IFAT Africa is a platform designed to bring together key stakeholders across public and private sectors to do exactly that.”

IFAT Africa, the continent’s leading trade fair and forum for water, sewage, refuse and recycling industries, will bring together public and private sector stakeholders from across Africa to discuss challenges and solutions for the water and waste sectors.

For more information, go to https://ifat-africa.com/

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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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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.

SOUTH AFRICA’S ENGAGEMENT

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

INTERNATIONAL STRATEGIES, PARTNERSHIPS AND FRAMEWORKS

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.

AFRICAN PARTNERSHIPS

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.


TOWARDS A NEW GLOBAL LEGALLY BINDING AGREEMENT ON PLASTIC POLLUTION

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

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 – A FIRST IN AFRICA

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.

ALLIANCE TO END PLASTIC WASTE

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.

AFRICAN MARINE WASTE NETWORK

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.

CLiP

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

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

READ THIS ARTICLE IN THE GREEN ECONOMY JOURNAL ISSUE 45

©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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