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Conscious shoppers all over the world are wielding their purchasing power to drive positive change. Locally, savvy shoppers are joining some of South Africa’s leading retailers and brands, united under the South African Plastics Pact, on an inspiring mission to eliminate problem plastics – an urgent and crucial task in South Africa, where a staggering 2.4 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated annually.
As many as 34.7 million problematic or unnecessary plastic items were diverted from landfills in a single year by local SA retailers and brands that belong to the innovative South African Plastics Pact – an inspiring success story that thousands of South African shoppers can join by recognising these plastics and discontinuing their use – making a significant difference at a time when plastic pollution is reaching crisis levels.
According to the Breaking the Plastics Wave report, the flow of plastic into the ocean is projected to nearly triple by 2040 – with a staggering 50kgs of plastic entering the ocean for every metre of shoreline! In South Africa, around 2.4 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated annually. On average, every citizen leaks at least 1.4kg of plastic into the environment every year. That is far above the global average, and just 14% is recycled.
In South Africa, a significant part of the plastic pollution crisis is the use of problematic and unnecessary plastic items, listed below, which can’t or won’t be reused, recycled or composted, and usually end up in landfill or littered in the environment. Many of these plastic items can be found on other most littered lists including The Beach Co-Op’s Dirty Dozen™ list that highlights the 12 most common items found on our beaches and rocky shores. These plastics also contain or require hazardous chemicals for production or disrupt the recyclability of other items.
Problematic or Unnecessary Plastics
- PET and PVC shrink sleeves on PET beverage bottles
- Thin (barrier) bags at tills
- Oxo-degradable plastics
- PVC bottles, pallet wrap and labels
- Plastic stickers on fruit and vegetables
- Thin filmed barrier bags for fruit and vegetables
- Plastic straws
- Plastic stirrers
- Single-use plastic picnic cutlery and plastic plates and bowls
- Cotton buds with plastic stems
- Plastic lollipop sticks
- Plastic microbeads in cosmetics
Local conscious shoppers are not only recognising these items, but are discontinuing their use, while also using their purchasing power to support retailers and brands who are doing their part to eliminate these plastics – in SA, the 44 SA Plastics Pact members include retailers like Woolworths, SPAR, Clicks, Food Lovers Market and Pick ‘n Pay as well as well-known brand owners like Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa, Pepisco, Distell and Tiger Brands.
These companies are making substantial contributions with, for example, the introduction of paper stems and sticks for earbuds and lollipop sticks; and the removal, altogether, of plastic straws, plastic stirrers and plastic stickers. Pick ‘n Pay has entirelyremoved the thin clear plastic bags at tills used to separate cleaning chemicals from food products (for example), while Clicks has significantly reduced PET/PVC labels on PET bottles. Other SA Plastics Pact members are looking at reuse-refill dispensing solutions to reduce packaging used for dishwashing liquid and cooking oil, such as Unilever’s Sonke Pilot Project involving refills for Sunlight Liquid and Triple Shine; and a pilot project with V&A Waterfront to implement a “rent-a-reusable cup” deposit-return system for beverages in a market setting.