plastic bag levy


Plastic bag levy doesn’t go to increasing recycling efforts

The plastic bag levy has raised something close to R2-billion, yet somehow, South Africa still faces a plastic pollution crisis.

plastic bag levy


In South Africa, plastic pollution is at crisis levels. We thought that when the then-Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, announced the increase in plastic levies to 12 cents in April 2018, much more would be done to increase recycling efforts.

Plastic bag levy does not go where it is intended

According to reports by Business Day, of the nearly R2-billion that has been raised through the plastic supermarket bag levy, only R919.6-million has been allocated to recycling efforts.

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Since 2004, the recycling sector in South Africa has functioned in a sluggish manner, without the appropriate resources and workforce to tackle the issue.

Furthermore, Business Day reported that,

The levy is applied to the manufacturers of the plastic bags but is ultimately passed on to consumers, who buy the bags at tills for varying prices from 60c up.

It was introduced in 2004, coupled with a minimum limit on the thickness of the bags to aid recycling and promote re-use, after a pact between the Department of Environmental Affairs, labour and business.

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The objective of increasing the price of plastic bags was to encourage people to purchase them less, and instead, consider reusing the ones they have.

Treasury reveals where the plastic bag levy allocation goes to

After attempts to get some perspective from the National Treasury on this issue, the department’s response was that it had deemed that the money raised from the plastic bag levy was not exclusively committed to the recycling sector.

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Treasury does not consider tackling plastic pollution as a critical priority. The rest of the money was, according to the department, transferred to the National Revenue Fund (NRF) and from there would be allocated to different government departments.

Anton Hanekom, Plastic SA’s CE, stated that

“The agreement was … [funds] would be ring-fenced. Now they can be allocated anywhere deemed to be a national priority …”