On Monday, 31 October 2022, Members of South African Legislators for the Environment (SALE) – the voluntary nonpartisan forum of legislators facilitated by WFA and the ICCF Group – embarked on a clean-up mission in Cape Town to raise awareness of the negative impact single-use plastics have on waterways and oceans in South Africa.
This follows a fact-finding mission to Kenya in April of this year, where Members were particularly impressed by the success of Kenya’s ban on single-use plastic bags in 2017.
Members present included Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Faith Muthambi (ANC), Bantu Holomisa (UDM), Phillip Modise (ANC), Dave Bryant (DA), Nazier Paulsen (EFF), Simphiwe Mbatha (ANC) and Annerie Weber (DA).
The clean-up was held in Bokmakierie Canal in Hazendal, a suburb of Cape Town harshly affected by plastic pollution. Located behind residential housing and with a strained waste management system, the canal has become a dumping site.
Approximately 80,000 tonnes of plastic leaks into South Africa’s environment each year, with plastic pollution infiltrating and blocking water and drainage systems leading to increased flooding and spread of disease, harming biodiversity, and posing a threat to human health and the economy. Of particular concern are single-use plastics (SUPs), which are designed to be used once and thrown away. The single-use plastic bag has become colloquially known as our national flower as it can be found nearly everywhere, blocking drains, caught in fences, and wrapped around bushes.
Upon arrival at Bokmakierie Canal, the Members immediately mobilised and begun their clean-up, collecting various items of single-use plastic waste, mainly consisting of bags, bottles, and food packaging.
Chairperson Muthambi in engaging with the media present discussed how it was their responsibility to lead by example in their consistencies, mentioning that SALE were intending to initiate a country-wide clean-up campaign and that there would be more clean-ups initiated by them in the future.
Throughout the course of the clean-up, Members remarked how pollution must be tackled at source. Dave Bryant mentioned that Members of SALE have been exploring the development of a committee bill to propose bans on certain types of single-use plastics, as ‘it has been achieved in many other African countries and is making a significant difference in reducing the amount of plastic waste in the natural environment’.
Nazier Paulsen highlighted that South Africa ‘has tried in many ways to prevent single-use plastic from entering the environment’s litter, but this has not been very effective’, the plastic bag levy being one example of an instrument failing to reduce usage of single-use plastic bags.
More than 30 African countries have a full or partial ban on single-use plastic bags. The East African Community (the “EAC”), including Kenya and Rwanda, have each taken legislative action in relation to certain single-use plastics (mainly plastic bags) to reduce the detrimental effects of plastic pollution. Having seen first-hand the effectiveness of the plastic bag ban in Kenya earlier this year, it has inspired the Members of SALE to take similar action in South Africa, both from a community and legislative perspective.
Media releases can be found here:
In April 2022, Wilderness Foundation Africa and the ICCF Group facilitated the establishment and formalisation of the nonpartisan forum, South African Legislators for the Environment (SALE). SALE exists as a voluntary forum of legislators dedicated to information sharing, empowerment of its Members and constituencies as well as knowledge and capacity building. As a non-partisan forum, SALE remains committed to supporting its Members in fulfilling their constitutional mandate of oversight and legislating, with a commitment to a common goal of ensuring that South Africa continues to be a global leader in conservation and sustainable development.