Government looking at new laws banning straws, bags and other plastics

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has indicated that her department is looking at the possibility of reviewing legislation with a view of phasing out harmful plastic products including straws.

A number of cities around the world have announced bans on straws to fight litter and for environmental reasons, with Vancouver in Canada, and Brisbane in Australia, the latest in a growing list.

Speaking ahead of the department’s Budget Vote debate on Wednesday (16 May), the minister said the possible review would look at plastic products that are seen to be harmful to the environment.

“Second issue about legislation on possibly banning the plastic bags, straws and so on…it is possible. There are some plastics that are really not helpful.

“Plastic straws is one of them. It is highly possible that when it comes to that review, we will certainly say that.

“Also just the use of plastic. We agreed as a country that we will just use the plastics that will continue to be manufactured. The thickness thereof would be such that the plastic bags are usable again and again,” Molewa said.

Nosipho Ngcaba, the department’s director-general, added that straws posed a threat to the marine environment.

“For sea-based mammals, like sharks, we already know that straws are a big problem and they cause a threat to our marine mammals and certainly we would look at various other products that may have to be phased out in our economy while we consider a replacement but it is going to take a lot of awareness by citizens.

“When you go to a restaurant and you are given a straw, you should be able to say no, I will use a glass.”

New campaign against plastic pollution

Tabling her Budget Vote speech at the National Assembly later in the day, Molewa said the department remained committed to minimising plastic pollution.

She said in-line with resolutions taken at the UN General Assembly and UN Environmental Assembly respectively, the department has this year conducted a Plastic Material Study in collaboration with industry, the South African Bureau of Standards, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, the National Treasury and the Department of Health.

“We are consulting with the cosmetics industry to phase out the use of micro beads in cosmetics.

“The department, together with the Department of Trade and Industry [and its agencies SABS and NRCS) and National Treasury will also be reviewing the impact of the implementation of the plastic bag policies,” she said.

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