Skip to main content


5 March 2019

Packaging SA (PSA), the organisation representing packaging converters and associated companies, welcomes the Department of Environmental Affairs’ acknowledgement that government has failed to develop competent waste management facilities and that municipalities are neither able to implement waste removal infrastructure nor exercise control over current pollution regulations.

One of the objectives of PSA is to address the minimisation of packaging and paper waste sent to landfill through the support of material reduction, recycling, recovery and other related activities, with the vision to strive for zero packaging and paper waste to landfill.  PSA supports the management of waste through the hierarchal approach which is a recognized international Model. It offers a holistic approach and a systematic method for waste management, addressing, waste avoidance, reduction, re-use, recycling, recovery, treatment, and safe disposal as a last resort.  This aims to eventually reduce the reliance of SA’s waste disposal on landfills where most waste ends up.

In pursuit of this aim, PSA submitted its Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Plan to the Department of Environmental Affairs in early September 2018.  This Plan has a long term vision in line with SA’s National Development Goals and the global Sustainable Development Goals, of which South Africa is a signatory. The Plan takes cognisance of the global market forces which impact the local paper and packaging markets through raw material imports and ready filled and unfilled packaging imports.

Says Shabeer Jhetam, PSA Executive Director “We believe that the less waste that reaches landfills, the greater the landfill airspace saving for municipalities. As a result, the packaging industry has been involved in voluntary recycling through the Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs) for numerous years.” The most recent 2017 SA statistics for recycling of packaging are as follows:

Packaging Type Consumption Tons Collected Tons % Collected
Glass 758.8 330.7 43.6
Metal 183.8 138.9 75.6
Paper 1950.7 1281.1 65.7
Plastic 867.8 395.1 45.5
TOTAL 3761.1 2146.8 57.1

The target for collection/diversion rates will increase to 66.9% within a 5 year period when the plan is implemented.  This compares well to the EU’s target of 65% for all paper and packaging by 2025. 

Jhetam  says “Our Plan recognises the complexity of waste management in terms of collection, transport, recovery, recycling of materials, secondary markets and the demand of recyclables and developing end-use markets. As a result, we have proposed to government a multi-pronged approach, through multi-level projects with the aim of social and economic transformation within the sector.”

He adds that the PSA Plan recognises the role to be played across the entire material value chain, including working together with government, municipalities and the informal sector. The focus is on packaging and paper materials generated at pre- and post-consumer level, with an emphasis on post-consumer or household level as this is where the serious challenges lie.  He notes that the pre-consumer or industry level is a much easier area to manage due to the many private initiatives and existing company systems.

Jhetam cautions, “Packaging should not be assessed in isolation from the product it carries, as it is only one part of the overall life-cycle of a packaged product.  It is important to understand that the packaging plays a key role along the entire value chain and consumer goods supply chain because optimum packaging reduces waste, protects against damage and theft, makes logistics more efficient, makes products shelf-ready, preserves their quality and adds to shelf-life, as well as being a medium for regulatory and voluntary consumer information.  Serving all these purposes equally is not always an easy or simple task.”

PSA members have the following key objectives (based on the New Plastics Economy targets):

•         Eliminate unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging through redesign and innovation.

•         Ensure all packaging is returnable, reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

•         Increase the reuse, collection, and recycling of packaging.

•         Increase recycled content in packaging.

The waste hierarchy includes:

  • Avoidance and Reduction – products/materials must be designed to minimize their waste components; or reduce the amount of natural material used and potential toxicity of waste generated during production and after use;
  • Re-use at the end of the product’s life span so that it becomes input for new products/materials;
  • Recycle – separating materials from the waste stream and processing them in a cradle-to-cradle waste management approach;
  • Recovery  –  reclaiming components or materials or using the waste as a fuel;
  • Treatment and disposal  – as a last resort. 

The PSA Plan goes a step further and includes a Circular Economy perspective to ensure that all aspects of the packaging value chain are incorporated.

For recycling to be beneficial it is important to focus on generating local economic benefits, however these depend on the volume and quality of recyclable materials that can be collected, the market for these materials as well as incentives and available technology. Recycling adds value to waste and creates jobs by stimulating a secondary resources economy. Better collection systems are required, while stimulating the demand for the materials will require investment, research and development and testing of potential solutions.  International literature suggests that waste should be regarded as a resource. Design is also shifting from the concept of general material usage to planning for recycling and reuse within closed-loop systems.

Jhetam concludes, “We can only achieve success if all the parties involved play their part.  We need government to approve the Plan, municipalities to have efficient implementation plans and every individual and household in South Africa to take greater responsibility for the packaging waste they generate.”

For further information and interviews:  contact Shabeer Jhetam, Executive Director Packaging SA – 012 001 1914