We’re very excited that the South African government has committed to pursuing circularity and sustainable consumption. It has passed the National Waste Management Strategy 2020 which promotes the waste hierarchy and circular economy principles, while achieving both socio-economic benefits and the reduction of negative environmental impacts. Last week, Barbara Creecy the Minister of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs delivered this speech, which we are republishing for your interest. It was delivered on Friday before SA Recycling Week. The week was dedicated to raising awareness about the environment, about the climate impact of waste, about clean and sustainable waste management practices and about adopting and transitioning to new innovative means to assist in reduction, reuse, repurpose, recycle or upcycle of waste material.
Thank you very much for inviting me today to open this circular economy dialogue.
We meet during a very challenging and difficult time when the country is currently grappling with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We all have been affected; as a result of the pandemic there has been minimal economic activity, jobs have been lost, industries and businesses have downsized or completely closed shop. Across the world governments are working on economic recovery strategies.
For many countries, placing their economies on a more sustainable growth path is central to these strategies. South Africa has also realised that green industries can open up new possibilities for development and assist in creating much needed jobs. The waste management sector has strong potential to innovate and improve socio-economic conditions, and contribute to sustainable development and resource use.
Regionally, South Africa is a founding member of the African Circular Economy Alliance which started when UNEP, South Africa, Rwanda and Nigeria agreed to take the outcomes of the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) forward in partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF).
This innovative programme was launched in Germany in 2017, at UNFCCC COP 23. The Alliance is open to all African Countries and we have joined hands with other states to facilitate, promote and support the transition towards a circular economy on our continent. The recent AMCEN Bureau have instructed the Alliance to ramp up the implementation of Circular economy in Africa.
We also participate in the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), of which I am the current President. The AMCEN Bureau together with the African Union proposed an “African Green Stimulus Programme” that will contribute meaningfully towards the broader African Post-Covid-19 Response Programme. Improving waste management by means of adopting principles of a circular economy is one of the focus areas.
Here at home, we aligned policy and strategy with the circular economy concept.
I am pleased to share with you today, that last week, Cabinet approved the National Waste Management Strategy 2020.
The National Waste Management Strategy 2020 is aimed at promoting the waste hierarchy and circular economy principles, while achieving both socio-economic benefits and the reduction of negative environmental impacts. Key to this are the three Pillars of the National Waste Management Strategy which are: promoting waste minimisation, efficient and effective waste services and awareness raising, compliance monitoring and enforcement.
The National Waste Management Strategy 2020 builds on the successes and lessons from the implementation of that 2011 strategy. The NWMS provides government policy and strategic interventions for the waste sector and is aligned and responsive to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 adopted by all United Nations (UN) member States. It is also aligned and consistent with South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP): Vision 2030 which is our country’s specific response to, and integration of the SDGs into our overall socio-economic development plans.
Significant strategic shifts from the 2011 strategy made in the NWMS 2020 include:
- Addressing the role waste pickers and the informal sector in the circular economy;
- Promoting approaches to the design of products and packaging that reduce waste or encourage reuse, repair and preparation for recycling, support markets for source separated recyclables;
- Investigating potential regulatory or economic interventions to increase participation rates in residential separation at source programmes;
- Investing in the economies associated with transporting of recyclables to waste processing facilities;
- Addressing the skills gap within the sector; and
- Engagement with the National Treasury regarding the operational expenditures for municipalities associated with implementing the NWMS and Waste Act.
This year my Department embarked on an extensive consultation process to initiate Extended Producer Responsibility for the following products:
- Paper and Packaging;
- Electrical and Electronic Equipment; and
This gives effect to Section 18 of the National Environmental Management Waste Act, 2008 and also charts the new approach to the management of waste in South Africa. This will make a significant contribution in the diversion of waste from landfilling, thereby increasing the recycling rate to achieve the objectives of the National Waste Management Strategy. This programme will ensure that waste pickers are fully integrated in the recycling value chain.
The Department has also taken strides by ensuring the necessary product design changes that embrace circularity for the manufacturing of plastic carrier bags. We have received extensive comments on the amendments of the plastic carrier bags Regulations, and I am pleased that we are moving in the right direction to prevent and manage plastic pollution.
Despite the setbacks faced with the Section 28 process for waste tyres, in November 2019 I commissioned the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in terms of section 29 of the Waste Act to develop an industry waste management plan for the waste tyre sector. This process has not been without its difficulties but following recent interactions we hope to issue a version which is fully compliant with the regulatory environment later this year
Other initiatives that we hope will promote the circular economy include the exclusion regulations that recognise material that can be used for beneficiation purposes without requiring a waste licence. I have approved 48 applications for the beneficial use of several waste materials, thus unblocking obstacles and promoting the full implementation of the waste management hierarchy. We are continuing with the implementation of Programmes such as the Recycling Enterprise Support Programme, and Chemicals and Waste Economy Phakisa initiatives that contribute to job creation while diverting waste away from landfill. We are also taking time to rethink and reimagine how these programmes can further enhance the demand for waste materials in order to close the loop.
I am aware that most stakeholders participating in this webinar today are also contributing in the implementation of circular economy initiatives in one way or another. I want to take this opportunity to thank you in advance for your contributions. I would also like to challenge you to assist our country to recover from the effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic .
Keeping the national policy framework, and local and global economic landscape in mind, during the course of today’s webinar I would like you to consider the following:
- First and foremost how our sector can contribute to job retention and job creation at a living wage.
- How our work can formalise and strengthen small enterprises who are the backbone of any successful economic system.
- How we create and expand markets for recyclable products so that our circular economy is demand lead and therefore sustainable.
- How we further reform the regulatory environment to incentivise reuse and recyclying rather than landfill disposal
- And how in the context of a constrained fiscal environment we can ensure more effective waste services at local level.
- And of course lastly but most importantly how we strengthen our existing partnership between government, business and communities to bring about more sustainable livng and working communities.
The Green Economy is one of the four sectors that have been prioritised by Government to assist with economic recovery. The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic makes this an opportune moment to usher in the necessary policy changes linked to EPR including product composition targets that would catalyse economic green recovery and will set us on the circular economy trajectory.
I look forward to the outcomes of today’s discussions and wish you everything of the best in your deliberations!
This speech was first published here.