Experts at IFAT Africa and its partnering organisations, analytica Lab Africa and food & drink technology (fdt) Africa, have called for urgent collective action to deal with waste. The organisations are calling on civil society, industry and the government to address waste, food and water security challenges that are currently hindering South Africa.
A recent panel discussion was held at IFAT Africa 2019. One of the topics debated was the role of environmental technologies in supporting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The founding president of the Global Recycling Foundation, Ranjit Baxi, says that the problem of plastic pollution around the world s a complex one that cannot be solved overnight.
“Over 8.5-billion tonnes of plastic has been produced, and if we continue at the rate we are going, it is estimated that over 35-billion tonnes could be in circulation by 2035. Plastic remains a massive challenge for mankind, and it won’t just go away. We need collective efforts and the right legislation to ensure that we reduce single-use plastic and produce only plastics that are recyclable,” he says.
Legislative frameworks can stimulate collective action
The sustainability director at Plastics SA, Douw Steyn, was another panelist who says that the majority of marine plastic pollution originates upstream. He also says that efforts are currently being implemented to catch this waste before it reaches South African coastlines. The panelists all agreed that stricter regulations and laws will help to support these collective efforts and improve the recycling rates in South Africa.
However, the panelists also warned that over-regulation can be counter productive in the government’s efforts to achieve SDGs. For example, the experts argued that the funds raised from the recently-implemented Carbon Tax Bill may not be channelled into environmental initiatives. The taxes on plastic shopping bags that were implemented in 2003 have also not been used for their intended purpose.
Everyone has a role to play
Despite this, no community in South Africa should be left behind when it comes to waste, food and water security. United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) national programme officer Levy Maduse says that environmental education in rural communities is vital. Teaching every citizen about the importance of waste management, sustainable food production and water-saving will build the nation and improve the lives of all South Africans.
The panelists debated various topics at IFAT Africa 2019. They all agreed that collective action is needed to combat pollution and make the most of scarce resources such as water. Every individual needs to take responsibility and play their part in effective waste disposal practices, as well as food and water-saving in the household.
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