Towards Osaka Blue Ocean Vision - G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter

the Republic of South Africa

Actions and Progress on Marine Plastic Litter
Last Update : 2020/03/17

Policy framework

(1) National Coastal Management Programme of South Africa (2013).
(2) Western Indian Ocean Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (2018).


(1) Initiatives to improve waste management:

(a) National Recycling Enterprise Support Programme (RESP): primarily targeted at new or recently formed business entities that have developed business plans that demonstrate a high potential to make a significant impact within the waste economy and aims to support the establishment of at least two recycling companies in 9 provinces.

(b) Implementation of Industry Waste Management Plans under the National Waste Act: paper, packaging, electrical, electronic and lighting industries are required to implement industry waste management plans indicating how these industries will deal with its extended producer responsibility and decrease packaging in the environment, amongst other aspects.
(c) Assessment of Plastic Material Flow and End of Life Management: the study modelled total plastic flows through the economy to identify where specific challenges lie in terms of plastic disposal to landfill sites and plastic losses to the environment.
(d) Review of the implementation and the effectiveness of plastic bag policies and identification of options for a new plastic bag policy direction: the assessment aimed to determine a new policy direction and to inform amendments to existing policy instruments governing the production and sale of plastic carrier bags.
(e) Assessment of the extent of single use plastic waste and potential policy options: aims to analyse the extent of single use plastics waste with a view to propose policy options.
(h) Operation Phakisa Waste Lab: aimed at enhancing the chemicals and waste economy, by among others, increasing commercialisation of the circular economy and creating value from resources currently discarded as waste (e.g. through introduction of material recovery facilities & plastic pelletization plants to increase plastic recycling rates).
(h) Port reception facilities audit: audit under the Commonwealth Marine Litter Programme of current status of acceptance and management of ship generated waste from international and domestic ships in order to identify additional port reception facilities would be needed to process that waste sustainably.


(2) Initiatives to recover or remove waste and litter from land and aquatic systems:

(a) National Working for the Coast Programme: a job creation initiative targeting women and youth and focussing on promoting responsible coastal management through, among others, collecting litter on along beaches and waterways.
(b) Good Green Deeds programme: a nation-wide programme aimed at mobilising the public to clean local communities and raise awareness around illegal dumping and waste management.
(c) Source to Sea programme: a programme aimed at reducing marine litter by targeting and recovering litter at in source in river catchments and human settlements along rivers, and promoting improved waste management.
(d) Operation Clean Sweep: an industry led initiative aimed at reducing the accidental loss of pellets, flakes and powder from processing facilities into the environment.
(e) Annual International Coastal Clean-up Day: celebrated in the 3rd week of September each year, South Africa is ranked 6th in terms of the number volunteers who participate in the campaign.


(3) Initiatives promoting research and innovation:

(a) Science review of marine plastic pollution: led by the National Department of Science and Technology, this study reviewed the sources and pathways of plastic marine litter, transport and fate of marine plastic litter, impacts on biota and ecology, economic impacts and monitoring methods.
(b) Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Competition: this competition under the Commonwealth Litter Programme seeks to showcase solutions to marine litter and waste management and will culminate in a STEM Conference in December 2019.
(c) Establishment of a micro-plastics laboratory: this initiative under the Commonwealth Litter Programme will enhance research on micro-plastic pollution and offer opportunities for scientific training and capacity-building.
(d) Support for transitioning to more environmentally sustainable alternatives from conventional plastics (funded by Japan): implemented by UNIDO, this project will support the identification and implementation of opportunities for sustainable alternative materials, including bio-plastics, and will support the implementation of the Industry Waste Management Plan of the plastic packaging industry by building up the capacity to increase the quality and amount of recyclables.
(e) Council for Scientific and Industrial Research:
– development of biodegradable and recyclable plastic bags from agricultural by-products and biopolymers.
– Life cycle sustainability assessment of the most appropriate carrier bag option for South Africa, from an environmental, social and economic perspective.
– Assessment of the use of waste plastic (non-recyclable component) in road construction (wet and dry methods), to inform possible innovative new end-use market development.
– Assessment of the potential for by-product recovery through pyrolysis of waste plastics.
– Assessment of the potential of converting waste plastics (problematic fraction) and multilayer plastic packaging to metal organic frameworks, to support innovative new end-use market development.


(4) Public and industry awareness, outreach and advocacy:

(a) Good Green Deeds programme: a nation-wide programme aimed at mobilising the public to clean local communities and raise awareness around illegal dumping and waste management.
(b) Source to Sea initiative: a programme aimed at reducing marine litter by targeting litter and mismanaged waste at source in river catchments and raising public awareness.
(c) World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA) and the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO): development of a South African Plastics Pact aimed at eliminating unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging, making sure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable, significantly increasing the collection and recycling of plastic packaging, and increasing recycled content in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled material.
(d) World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA): rolling out of standardised On Pack Recycling Labels (OPRLs) with major retailers, to alert consumers on whether the packaging can or cannot be recycled.


(5) Regional and international cooperation:

(a) Nairobi Convention: Development of a Regional Marine Litter Action Plan for the Western Indian Ocean Region (2018).
(b) Abidjan Convention: Development of a Regional Marine Litter Action Plan for the West, Central and Southern African region (ongoing).
(c) International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN): MARPLASTICS Initiative aimed at reducing plastic leakage to the environment by focussing on 4 outputs, namely Knowledge (assessing plastic hotspots), Capacity (conducting stakeholder analyses, strengthening citizen-science), Policy (analysing current policy), and Business (identify effective and practical solutions).
(d) Commonwealth Marine Litter Project (CLiP): The programme supports six ODA-eligible Commonwealth countries to develop national litter action plans focusing on plastics entering the oceans. CLIP performs workshops, provides training and develops capacity in the target countries; progressing research and collecting data are also priorities.


Recycling and waste management:

In 2018, South Africa recycled 352 000 tons of plastics into raw material. When compared to the recycling rate of 31.1% in Europe, South Africa has an input recycling rate of 46.3% for all plastics. In South Africa, a large proportion of recyclables are sourced from landfill and other post-consumer sources at high costs. Landfill material is of poor quality, contaminated and therefore, expensive to recycle. Significant opportunities exists for waste separation at source.

In 2016, approximately 59% of South African households had their waste collected by the local authority or service provider. Of the 42 million tonnes of general waste generated in South Africa in 2017, it is estimated that only 11% (4.9 million tonnes) was recycled (State of Waste Report).

Plastics recycling provided an income to more than 58,417 workers, 6000 more than in 2017 (Plastics SA). Glass recycling adds an additional 50,000 (the Glass Recycling Company). 

International Coastal Clean-up 2018:

Land clean-ups:

Number of items collected – 241 425 items 

Weight of debris – 9 532 tons

Number of bags – 3 124

Distance cleared 204.7 km

Number of volunteers – 19 563

Underwater clean-ups:

Number of people – 43

Weight – 186 kg

Distance – 500meters

Number of bags – 47

Note: Relevant indicators, data or other numerical information can be included at the discretion of each country, for example: (1) the amount of waste generated, reused, collected, recycled, and properly disposed of; (2) the amount of marine litter cleaned up; (3) the scale of use of innovative technologies and materials including R&D investment; (4) the scale and/or effect of assistance for countries that need technical capacity development including the increased amount of waste properly disposed of. (encouraged to indicate the proportion/elements of plastics and/or microplastics, if available)

Best practices

The PET Recycling Company:
PETCO is the trading name of the PET Recycling Company (Pty) Ltd, and represents the South African PET plastic industry’s joint effort to self-regulate post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) recycling. PETCO is financed by a voluntary recycling levy paid by converters on PET resin purchased, and the company also receives grants from brand owners and resin producers. By taking responsibility for post-consumer PET recycling, PETCO imposes accountability over the entire life cycle of PET products and packaging. This means that those companies manufacturing, importing and/or selling PET products and packaging are financially and physically responsible for such products after their useful life. In the case of post-consumer PET, this responsibility has been delegated to a third party, namely PETCO, who fulfils the PET industry’s role of extended producer responsibility (EPR). EPR promotes the integration of environmental costs associated with PET products throughout their life cycle into the market costs of the products, and shifts responsibility for the used container from government to private industry. In 2018, 65% of all PET bottles in South Africa (over 2 billion) were collected and recycled into new products. Industry in South Africa is on track towards recycling 70% of post- consumer beverage PET by 2022. PETCO also conducts consumer awareness by encouraging consumers to participate in kerb-side projects and supports community projects and drop-off sites that actively recover their post-consumer PET plastic for recycling. PETCO also conducts marketing awareness and maintains a repository of awareness material for schools, domestic users, corporate citizens, collectors, designers and municipalities.

Further information

South African Waste Information Centre: 


PETCO – South African PET recycling company

Contact details

Dr Y. Peterson
Department of Environmental Affairs, Branch: Oceans & Coasts

Recent Meeting

Latest News