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“It’s no longer business as usual. We need to work together to make a change”

The plastics industry aims to be part of the solution.

As an avid scuba diver, Douw Steyn is aware of the risks that plastics pose to our environment. But he is also aware of the role plastics play in our world.

“Getting rid of plastic will not be easy. Plastics are convenient and durable. Today, not every use of plastic can be substituted by sustainable alternatives. But we need to keep trying. Every step we take, we need to be conscious of the impact we are making”

The Plastics Federation of South Africa – or Plastics|SA – was founded “by the industry, for the industry”. Through its member associations, raw material suppliers and Producer Responsibility Organisations, Plastics|SA represents all sectors of the South African Plastics Industry.

Douw Steyn joined Plastics|SA in 1997. As Director for Sustainability, he represents the industry in various organisations that look for solutions to plastic waste and pollution: the Global Plastics Alliance, the African Marine Waste Network, the National Recycling Forum, the Plastics Pact, Marine Litter Solutions and Let’s Do It World.

“We are signatories to the Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter in which the industry pledges to invest in solutions that prevent plastics reaching the oceans. Together with Packaging SA and the Department of Forestry Fisheries and Environment, we developed a guideline for Designing for Recycling. We also manage the South African Initiative to End Plastic Pollution in the Environment.”

Passion in action

On a more practical note, Plastics|SA supports projects such as the KZN South Coast River Catchment Project to prevent plastic from reaching the ocean. “Most plastic reaches the ocean via the rivers. By working together with local communities, NGOs, government and companies, we create a network that collects and recycles the plastic. Through education, plastics collection and clean-ups, we empower local communities and informal waste collectors, and connect them to companies who can recycle the collected materials, for example into paving tiles. Litter booms at selected rivers also trap the floating litter and prevents it from washing down into the sea.”

Steyn has a personal passion for the oceans: “I have been organising litter campaigns and beach clean-ups for more than 30 years now. When I joined Plastics|SA, we launched Clean-up and Recycle South Africa. This initiative supports hundreds of clean-ups nationwide. My dream is that one day we won’t need to arrange clean-ups because there isn’t anything to clean up!”

“Our aspiration is to ensure that zero plastic waste reaches the environment. However, I’m not sure if we will ever get to a #ZeroWaste world. Where there are humans there is consumption and waste. It’s all about what we do with that waste. Even waste materials have value – we must use that value to create new products – a true circular economy.”
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