2 years ago

Opportunity Issue 96

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Opportunity, endorsed by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) is the mouthpiece for business in Southern Africa. The aim of the publication is to inform potential investors both nationally and internationally of the most relevant business news: trade, investment, financial, market-related information for each business sector, as well as to inform of the latest developments in business legislation from both the public and private sector.


WASTE MANAGEMENT plastic waste associated with Covid-19 increased by some 10-million tons. This represents just over 3% of the approximate 300-million tons of total plastic waste that we normally generate per year (or approximately 6% of the 150-million tons of single-use plastic waste per year). 1 And if you think that these waste streams are managed better than our Covid-19 waste, let’s be very clear that more than 90% of this waste is not being recycled today. Even if the increased amount may not seem significant in percentage terms, in nominal terms it is equivalent to the estimated amount of plastic dumped in our oceans in recent times. Covid-19-related waste is therefore just the tip of a plastic waste iceberg. The simple truth is that our collecting, sorting and recycling systems were unable to address our waste problem even pre-pandemic. Covid-19 simply triggered further exposure of an already faulty system. For instance, during lockdown councils and municipalities had to suspend waste and recycling collections. If you factor in the explosive growth in e-commerce during the pandemic and the associated increase in the amount of packaging (for example, cardboard packaging increased by approximately 1-million tons, or 30% of total global cardboard waste), the strain put on the existing waste collection system suggests that current collection and sorting logistics are not fit to handle such peak increases and even our more established recycling pathways have not been designed for scale of the current task at hand. IS COVID-19 A TIPPING POINT FOR CONSUMER REGULATION? Ironically, Covid-19 could still prove to be the catalyst required to start to tackle our waste problem. Coupled with grassroots consumer activity, governments are starting to rise to the challenge and take action. About 44% of confirmed Covid-19 stimulus packages are linked to sustainability and circular economy goals – amounting to .5-trillion out of the .9-trillion committed funds. The EU has introduced an 800 euro per ton levy for non-recycled plastic packaging, while the other 16 major stimulus packages have rather broader sustainability and circular KPIs. NEW SOLUTIONS ARE THE ANSWER Even though the pandemic-induced increase in the volume of single-use plastic and packaging waste is not the core problem, the growing change of sentiment and sustainability-oriented stimulus packages give us hope that we _____ __ ___ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ Adding one additional takeaway meal per week for 3-billion people into this equation accounts for an extra 4.4-million tons of plastic waste ___ __ ___ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ may be entering a new era for change. Regulatory moves and commitments of global consumer packaged goods (CPGs) to increase recycled plastic usage will enable the vital investment in circular packaging solutions. To support this, we need companies pushing innovative solutions when it comes to collection, sorting and recycling to effectively handle increasing waste quantities as well as drive a stable supply of recycled plastics to provide the necessary viable alternatives to virgin material. ___ __ REFERENCES [1] Source of yearly plastic waste and single-use breakdown: Plastic Oceans International 40 |

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