SA govt commits to supporting an international plastics treaty


16 February 2022

Comment on South Africa’s negotiating position on the draft result for an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution adopted by the South African Cabinet (see statement from the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment website here.)


This is a collective response from Green Anglicans, Greenpeace, groundWork, IUCN and WWF South Africa welcoming the decision and encouraging the government to complement this with immediate measures to address the menace of plastic pollution.


“We are delighted to hear that South Africa has committed to supporting the binding treaty on plastic pollution. Plastic pollution impacts heavily on the most vulnerable communities, blocking sewerage, contributing to flooding, impacting on health. Plastic Pollution flowing from our rivers out into the oceans causes devastation and lingering death to many marine species. As people of faith, we are called to care for creation and to love our neighbour. A binding treaty will be an important milestone towards this.” – Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Green Anglicans.


“Greenpeace Africa welcomes the Cabinet’s support of the UNEA plastics treaty. Plastic pollution remains a serious problem, devastating communities’ health, their environment and the ecosystem that millions depend on for livelihood. The gas and oil industries, and associated supply chain industries, are perpetuating the continuous use of plastics through greenwashing, creating a self-fulfilling dependency. A legally binding treaty should also consider the entire lifecycle of plastic. Governments must rein in on these industries with stricter regulations and the removal of all fossil fuels subsidies. Taking action against plastic pollution at its origin will help to address the growing climate crisis, too”. – Nhlanhla Sibisi, Greenpeace Africa


“This is a step in the right direction as there is a clear need for us to support the establishment of internationally legally binding agreement and instrument to address plastic pollution. We definitely hope that our progressive position to support this is able to translate into national action that demonstrates how South Africa can reduce the impact of plastic by adopting zero waste systems aimed at stopping plastic at the production phase. If we want to address the issue, then we need to ensure that we focus on prevention rather than the cure.” – Niven Reddy, groundWork


“The Cabinet’s decision is a great piece of news. South Africa joins its peers in the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) to demonstrate its leadership and commitment in addressing the plastic pollution problem in the environment. The South African Government calls for the UNEA 5.2 process to consider the needs and circumstances of the continent.” – Peter Manyara, IUCN

“In supporting the resolution by Rwanda and Peru to address plastic pollution, South Africa Cabinet – reflecting whole-of-the-government approach – joins 184 countries who have already expressed their support to initiate negotiations on a new global agreement on plastic pollution. We support the emphasis on the need for new, additional and predictable finance and means of implementation to support developing countries to ensuring successful implementation of such an internationally legally binding agreement. At the same time, all countries, including South Africa, need to take immediate steps to address plastic pollution across the lifecycle of plastic, irrespective of the form, content or timing of the UN process.” – Dr Prabhat Upadhyaya, WWF South Africa.


The current linear economic model of “take-make-waste” is the root cause of plastic pollution. The way plastic is produced, and the way products and packaging are designed, combined with how plastic items are managed after use, is highly unsustainable and damaging.

This problem is far-reaching. Plastic, and the subsequent impacts across its life cycle, are most visible at the end-of-life stage when plastic items are thrown away after use. Yet plastic leakage into the environment is a symptom of failures at every stage of the plastics life cycle: from raw material extraction to polymer production and product design, to consumption and waste collection, to the management of plastic after use.

The true lifetime cost of plastic pollution is not fully accounted for. These costs include greenhouse gas emissions, human and ecosystem health impacts and unmanaged plastic waste.

Discarded plastic items found in nature fragment over time into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. Microplastics are found in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Animals, including livestock, can also confuse microplastics for food, which often leads to fatalities. Marine life often gets entangled in single-use plastic bags, ropes or discarded fishing nets.

Plastic pollution thus poses a threat to Africa ecosystems as well as to its blue economy, affecting ocean-based economic activities such as tourism, fishing and maritime trade.


For more information or interviews, contact Andrea Weiss: 082 920 5993 or [email protected]



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