The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment’s introduction of extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulations in South Africa aims to promote the circularity of plastics packaging and grow the plastics recycling market altogether. Polyco PRO NPC, a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) for all plastic packaging in South Africa, has received concurrence from the Minister on their EPR Scheme fees submitted on the 5 November 2021. This approval is a significant development and will allow Polyco to further invest in the growth of plastic recycling in South Africa, and ultimately reduce the amount of plastic packaging waste going to landfill or ending up in the environment.
Over the last decade, Polyco has invested over R72 million into the plastic recycling industry and grown the industry by 118 000 tonnes, this was done through a voluntary scheme. The approval of Polyco’s mandatory EPR Scheme fees will hopefully now see an increase in the total amount of fees paid to Polyco, allowing Polyco to continue their work with multiple industry stakeholders including producers, brand owners, retailers, recyclers, informal waste collectors, converters and consumers. Polyco collects EPR fees from their member organisations and in turn invests into the plastic recycling industry. Under Polyco’s EPR Scheme, if the packaging is produced in South Africa, then the packaging manufacturer pays the EPR fee directly to Polyco. If the packaging is imported into South Africa, then the importer pays the EPR fee directly to Polyco.
EPR places the responsibility on producers to ensure that their products are handled responsibly post-consumer use. Polyco provides support to its members to achieve this through investment in recycling infrastructure, innovation, technology, education around improved packaging and sustainable design, increased stakeholder collaboration, and public awareness and education campaigns that encourage consumers to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
“The Polyco team have been working extremely hard over the last few months to ensure that our members are compliant with EPR regulations and that our scheme is successful in growing the plastics recycling industry in the coming years. We would like to thank our good standing members that have been paying their EPR fees since January this year which allowed us to do this important work,” says Patricia Pillay, Chief Executive Officer at Polyco. “Our membership base has grown from under 40 polyolefin plastic-packaging manufacturers to more than 600 registered member companies from across the plastics value chain, in the space of 10 months.”
As required by EPR regulations, producers need to either develop their own EPR Scheme or join a producer responsibility organisation (PRO), like Polyco, who are responsible for implementing an EPR scheme. Polyco’s EPR scheme is responsible for working with recyclers and collectors, cooperating with municipalities to increase collection initiatives, integrating informal waste collectors, promoting a market for recyclate and secondary products, and improving recycling infrastructure. Polyco has embarked on large scale consumer and community campaigns, like Packa-Ching and MillionPlus to increase the public’s awareness towards the environmental and social benefits of recycling plastic materials.
“The concurrence of EPR fees from the Minister and the fees from our members allows us to increase our investment in plastic recycling in South Africa and grow the circular economy of plastics packaging,” says Pillay.
“It is encouraging to receive this recognition and approval from national government which hopefully is just the starting point for more collaboration between the public and private sector for more sustainable waste management and the development of our circular economy.”
Polyco is focused on making plastic waste a valuable resource that works for the South African economy. As plastic remains a frequently used material for packaging and food preservation and safety, it remains valuable, but it is important to ensure that this material remains out of the environment and out of landfill. With mandatory EPR, the regulatory mechanism is in place to achieve this.
We would like to encourage all packaging producers to ensure that you are compliant with EPR regulations not only because its legislated now but because it is the right thing to do for the environment,” concludes Pillay.