South Africa takes innovative action on plastic waste

Johannesburg- South Africa (PANA) -- The South African government, business and labour have signed a ground-breaking agreement on the management of plastic bags, ending years of disagreement over the merits of increasing the thickness of shopping bags.
The agreement signed here Thursday by the three social partners would dramatically strengthen the recycling industry, creating much-needed jobs for the unemployed and retaining current jobs in the plastics industry.
Environmental Affairs and Tourism minister Mohammed, Valli Moosa, signed the agreement on behalf of government.
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi and National Council of Trade Unions' Mahlomula Skosana signed the agreement on behalf of labour.
Seven representatives of the Plastics Federation, the recyclers and retailers, signed it on behalf of business.
The agreement effectively amends parts of the Plastic Bag Regulations, which were promulgated on 9 May this year, and come into effect in May 2003.
The regulations, as they currently stand, set the absolute minimum thickness for plastic bags at 30 micrometres, and no printing is allowed.
These regulations will be amended to set the minimum thickness at 30 microns, with a maximum tolerance of 20 per cent thickness allowed for a period of five years.
A further amendment will allow for printing on the bags of up to 50 per cent when the type of ink used has no detrimental effect on the recycling potential of the plastic bag, and of up to 25 per cent on other types of ink.
This will still ensure that they are of recycling value.
The South African Bureau of Standards will develop a standard to this effect.
The parties have agreed that there must be transparency by business regarding the costs of plastic bags and that such costs would not be borne to consumers without their knowledge.
The agreement would lead to a lowering of retail prices, even though there will be a small cost to consumers for check-out packing in future.
It would also promote efficiency in the use, re-use, collection, recycling and disposal of plastic bags.
"Government has worked with social partners to produce a ground-breaking agreement on waste management.
This is a victory for partnerships in light of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
"It guarantees the protection of our precious environment against the threat of plastic waste, while ensuring that jobs in the plastics industry are retained and new jobs are created through a boosted recycling industry," said Moosa.
Cosatu said the agreement reflects a major achievement for all parties: "Labour is especially pleased that we are averting a potentially massive job loss and instead securing jobs and creating up to 4,000 additional jobs.

26 september 2002 21:33:00




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