South Africa’s plan to phase out harmful plastic shopping bags

Environment minister Barbara Creecy has gazetted draft amendments to the National Environmental Management Act in a move to phase out certain types of plastic bags.

The directive, which was published on 7 August, states that plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags must be made from a minimum of 50% ‘post-consumer recyclate’ from 01 January 2023 and must, from 1 January 2027, be made from 100% post-consumer recyclate.

‘Post-consumer recyclate’ is defined by the directive as material generated by households or by commercial, industrial and institutional facilities in their role as end-users of the product which can no longer be used for its intended purpose.

The directive also outlines the following ‘phase-out’ schedule:

  • The plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags must be made from a minimum of 50% post-consumer recyclate by 1 January 2023;
  • The plastic carrier bags and plastic flat bags must be made from a minimum of 75% post-consumer recyclate by 1 January 2025;
  • The plastic camer bags and plastic flat bags must be made from a minimum of 100% post-consumer recyclate by 1 January 2027.

Notably, the directive states that anyone found to be contravening these new changes shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding R5 million or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years.

In the case of a second or subsequent conviction to a fine not exceeding R10 million or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, and in both instances to both such fine and such imprisonment.

Malls phase-out plastic bags

A number of South Africa’s biggest shopping malls said that they will be adopting a ‘no plastic shopping bags’ policy across its malls as of 1 January 2020.

Property developer Liberty Two Degrees (L2D) said that it will has also initiated the introduction of recycling drop-off booths across a number of its properties.

A plastic bag levy was introduced in June 2004, at a rate of 3 cents a bag on some types of plastic shopping bags, with the aim of reducing litter and encouraging plastic bag reuse.

The levy was increased to 4 cents a bag from 1 April 2009 and further increased to 6 cents a bag from 1 April 2013 and to 8 cents a bag from 1 April 2016. From 1 April 2018 it was increased again to 12 cents a bag.

According to the 2018/19 tax statistics published by SARS at the end of the year, revenue brought in by the sale of plastic bags via the plastic bags levy increased by R59 million to R300 million for the year.


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South Africa’s plan to phase out harmful plastic shopping bags