The world's dustbin

Photo: Pexels

The world’s dustbin? SA govt ‘considering importing plastic waste’

A leaked draft document revealed shocking information that the government was considering importing plastic waste despite global outrage.

The world's dustbin

Photo: Pexels

A leaked draft document by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (Deff) revealed shocking information that the government was considering importing plastic waste despite global outrage against using other countries as dumping sites.


The Mail & Guardian reported that according to the leaked document, the South African plastics industry does not support the establishment of a new MEA on plastics as the plastics, marine plastic litter, and microbeads, as such are already partly, and can be fully accommodated in several MEAs.”

In response to the leaked documents environmental organisations and groups urged South Africa to support a proposed global treaty/multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) on plastic pollution.

 Greenpeace Africa’s Pan-African plastic project lead Angelo Louw said: 

“The South African government remains tone-deaf to our needs for a safe and healthy plastic-free environment. One of the scariest realisations in the document is that our government is considering importing plastic waste despite global outrage against using other countries as dumping sites.”

He added that several countries in Asia have stopped accepting waste due to the environmental injustice it causes underprivileged communities; the United Nations just released a much publicised report on this.” 

“As noted in the document, the South African government is fully aware of the country’s contribution to ocean plastic pollution – we are the world’s eleventh largest contributor. Yet, they are hoping to derail the global treaty because it might stand in the way of them capitalising on the plastic crisis. 

Louw furthermore said this document proves what they have been saying for months: “the South African environment department is captured by corporate interests when it comes to the plastic issue in our country.”


He said the fact that government only consulted with business interest groups, and that all of their proposed interventions are focused on financial benefit and not the reduction of plastic pollution, speaks volumes about the mindsets of our leaders.

Break Free From Plastic Regional Coordinator Niven Reddy said: 

“The government’s argument is that there are sufficient existing platforms that cover the issue of plastic, namely the Stockholm and Basel conventions. However, these platforms are only looking at plastic at its end of life, they deal with the impact of plastic.

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“We need a treaty that is looking at plastic further up the value chain and that is what the global treaty is going to do. As long as the department is acting with the interests of the plastics industry in mind, they are not going to be ambitious enough.”

According to IOL DEFF spokesperson Albi Modise said leaked draft documents did not represent their decisions and no decision whatsoever was taken yet on any new international agreement that arises from the United Nations Environmental Assembly with regard to plastic waste.

“The import and export of plastic waste in SA is handled through the Basel Convention. Using this guidance, the department has set up systems to handle applications for approval.

“The applicants that intend to bring the plastic waste into the country are obliged to indicate the intended use of the plastics in the country,” said Modise.

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