Shoppers cut use of plastic bags by 6 billion

The total quantum of funds which have been collected since the introduction of the plastic bag levy scheme in South Africa in 2003 up to the end of August 2014 is R1.1 billion. The levy was introduced at a modest 3 cents per bag in 2004, payable by plastic bag manufacturers and importers, increased to 4 cents per bag from 1 April 2009 and to 6 cents per bag on 1 April 2013. Given that this is a specific tax (cents per bag) increases are necessary from time to time to ensure that inflation does not erode the real value of the tax.

The levy on plastic shopping bags was introduced in 2004 as a mechanism to manage the problem of plastic bags which ended up as wind-blown litter on fences, trees, and the open veld or in waste facilities via normal refuse collection systems. Initially, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) intended to ban plastic shopping bags. However, in order to limit job losses in the plastics industry whilst at the same time reducing the impact of plastic bag pollution and to encourage recycling, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was entered into by the government (through DEAT), organised labour and business. DEA’s total budget allocation has increased from R2.7 billion in 2009/10 to R5.6 billion in 2014/15, the Chemicals and Waste Management programme was allocated about R66 million in 2013/14 (about 1 per cent of the DEA’s total budget).

The interventions have helped to reduce the use of plastic bags (from 10 billion prior to these interventions down to 4 billion plastic shopping bags per year to an estimated reduction of between 45%-75% plastic bag use) a year after the interventions were introduced. However, a more recent trend is showing increased use (production and imports) of plastic bags. A total of just over R216 million in funds have been appropriated from the National Revenue Fund to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) for recycling initiatives since 2003 (and to Buyisa-e-Bag when it was functional) for the period 2004/05 to 2014/15, as noted in the same Table 1. A non-profit section 21 company, Buyisa-e-Bag was established to promote plastic bag recycling. Buyisa-e-Bag’s main objectives are to promote waste minimisation, awareness creation in the plastics industry, expand collector networks and support rural collection through small, and medium sized enterprises, job creation and capacity-building.

Source: SA Parliament, 2014

 

Author: Petunia Thulo

Thulo has a degree in B.A Communications and Honors degree in Journalism. She is currently completing her Masters degree in Management and Development from the North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus. The focus study in her Masters degree is around Corporate Social Responsibility in the Mining sector. Thulo has worked in the newsrooms for some of the Media24 Community Newspapers both in the North West Province as well as in the Western Cape Province.

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