THERE is a growing appreciation of the crucial role business plays in the global effort to reduce plastic waste.
That’s according to Plastics SA Executive Director Anton Hanekom, commenting on a recent “historic” resolution of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) to forge an international legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution by 2024.
“Governments are interested in learning about what business is doing to end plastic waste. The resolution appeals to the business community to develop new commitments that will increase the ambition of the global agreement,” Hanekom said.
“It also highlights the need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation in order to improve the collection and recycling of plastic waste,” he said.
The assembly concluded with 14 resolutions aimed at strengthening collective actions for nature aimed at achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ahead of the conference, Plastics SA highlighted the importance of recognizing the special needs and circumstances of Africa and analysing the respective capabilities of each country in light of national circumstances.
“You cannot blindly enforce a First World solution on Third World problems. Each country’s local and regional context is different, as is the availability of resources to develop and implement effective waste management solutions,” Hanekom said.
“It is important to recognise that nations have unique and different socio-political climates that need to be taken into consideration.”
He said plastics continue to be the “cheapest, most practical and fit-for-purpose solution for many applications and uses in our country and on our continent”
“Whether used to save lives in hospitals, incorporated into technology and cars, or extending the shelf life of food by preventing breakage and spoilage, it is almost impossible to imagine any area of our lives that is not enhanced by plastics.”
When used and disposed of responsibly, plastics even play a major role in ensuring a more sustainable world, he added.
“We therefore welcome the draft resolution which encourages the public and private sectors to manage a just transition towards a circular economy.”
He said the local plastics industry would continue to collaborate with local government, industry, civil society, academia and other interested parties to develop “creative, but workable solutions to our nation’s waste crisis”.
“Over the past few decades, we have been pro-active in our efforts to prevent plastic from ending in the environment. We have also been addressing the issues of plastics leakage, overpackaging and developing an effective mechanism for the recovery and recycling of plastics.”
Now, with the signing of the treaty these local efforts stand to benefit from “access to some of the best minds in the world, greater resources and collective, global action”.