Developing the South African Plastics Pact

Global Circular Plastics Commitments

As you are aware, the current linear plastic packaging system has significant economic and environmental weaknesses that need urgent transformation towards a circular system that tackles the issue of waste, leakage and litter yet retains the many benefits plastic packaging can deliver (e.g. in reducing food waste).  As is seen in the global arena, a Circular Plastics Commitment can transform the plastic packaging sector to a truly circular system, providing a powerful platform for collaboration and action across all stakeholders to ensure a ‘systemic change’.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), in collaboration with UN Environment, has launched an international New Plastics Economy Global Commitment to eliminate plastic waste at source. The Global Commitment has been signed by 250+ organisations, representing 20% of all plastic packaging produced globally. Signatories include many of the world’s largest packaging producers, brands (including well-known consumer businesses such as Danone, H&M Group, L’Oréal, Mars, Incorporated, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, and Unilever), retailers and recyclers, as well as governments and NGOs.

Giving Effect to Commitments: The UK Plastics Pact

To give effect to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and achieve the shared vision of a circular economy for plastics in the UK, EMF partnered with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to launch The UK Plastics Pact. The UK Plastics Pact vision is “an economy where plastics never become waste. This requires a fundamental redesign of our current plastics system, which cannot be realised by a single organisation on its own, nor by fragmented actions by different stakeholders. The Plastics Pact is a bold initiative bringing together the entire plastics packaging value chain behind a common vision and committing to a set of ambitious targets. This unique pact between governments, businesses, local authorities, NGOs and consumers is the only way to truly transform the plastics system.” This vision is now supported by 68 members who are responsible for 80% of plastic packaging sold in UK supermarkets, and half of all packaging placed on the market.

The UK Plastics Pact is the first of a planned global network of Plastic Pacts. Australia, Canada, The Netherlands and France have declared their intention to develop plastics initiatives in line with a common circular economy vision, however to date, no developing economy countries have yet made such a declaration. Therefore, South Africa has a unique opportunity to be the first economy to on board founding partners to develop a South African Plastics Pact and act as a model for other countries in addressing the common and complex challenges of waste collection and disposal as well as the need to create decent jobs and support new and existing small and medium enterprises in the sector.

While there are several high profile global commitments and declarations (e.g. EMF Global Commitment and Alliance to End Plastic Waste etc.) they lack the national targets, delivery and involvement of the local businesses and stakeholders.

A Local Commitment: The South African Plastics Pact

In line with these global commitments and the UK Plastics Pact, the World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA) and the South African Plastics Recycling Organisation (SAPRO) spearheaded a local Plastics Pact in South Africa, with support from WRAP and the EMF. The South African Plastics Pact (SAPP) is different but complementary to other existing initiatives in SA;

  • It has common targets for the whole plastics value chain to support – from design – use – collection – recycling
  • It focusses on ‘circularity’ and transforming the plastics system – keeping the plastics in the economy and out of the environment.
  • For businesses it aligns with and helps to meet ambitions and targets set by many global brands and retailers – bringing in the South African priorities and issues.
  • It will result in tangible changes that will meet the demands of customers, consumers, NGOs, and other stakeholders, namely;
    • Less problematic and unnecessary plastic
    • Plastic designed to be reusable or recyclable
    • An increase in recycling
    • A stronger recycling and sorting sector bringing jobs and investment
    • Demand for more recycled plastic being used and less virgin material
    • Alignment of global, national and corporate goals will help deliver much needed change further and faster.

For more information or to join the South African Plastics Pact, please go to

The Process of Developing the SAPP

The approach of developing the SAPP will consist of a two-step process:

Step 1: Develop a forum for setting and agreeing targets, securing business support, funding and monitoring capacity;

Step 2: If agreed, then moving to a formal South African Plastics Pact launch in September/October 2019

The SAPP will be a bold collaborative agreement bringing together all stakeholders involved, including government, businesses (retailers, brands, packaging suppliers), collectors (local and city authorities) and the waste management and recycling sector, behind one vision and one set of ambitious targets.  It will also require mobilisation of citizens to support this initiative e.g. separation at source. In parallel to this, we will also be spearheading a drive to use standardised OPRL between brand owners and retailers, which will also form part of the Pact commitments.

By signing up to this ambitious initiative as a Founding Partner, indicating your commitment to the journey and co-design of a uniquely South African Plastics Pact, your business will be at the forefront of generating a fundamental change in the way we design, produce, use, re-use and dispose of plastics, receiving recognition from media and governments for participating in game-changing collaborative action.

As a prospective signatory of the SAPP you will be committing to:

  • Embed targets and interim milestones in corporate and organisational milestones;
  • Review packaging ranges and portfolios to identify opportunities, to improve recycling content and consumer messaging;
  • Develop clear accountability internally; provide objectives and training to category, procurement and technical teams;
  • Support consumer behaviour change on recycling and reuse, through corporate and brand channels;
  • Review own operations and practices as well as requiring suppliers to become members of their respective PROs;
  • Publicly report actions and progress;
  • Communicate successes to consumers, colleagues and externally.

The Envisaged Targets

The SAPP will set very stretching targets to 2022 and 2025. Businesses, government, cities, citizen groups and participating signatories are being asked to eventually sign up, formally prescribing to the collective targets covering five key areas:

  • Eliminating unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging
  • Making sure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Significantly increasing the collection and recycling of plastic packaging
  • Increasing recycled content in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled material
  • Becoming members of relevant PROs;

These will be tailored to the South African context, however similar commitments made globally include targets as follows:

  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, packaging recyclable or compostable.
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted
  • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

Mechanisms for delivery on these targets will be up to signatories.

The Ask

Aside from an indication of your commitment to the process as Founding Partners, the development of the SAPP will require core funding from signatories. The mechanism and model for this will be co-designed in coming months. SAPRO and the WWF-SA have funded the initial start-up costs of this initiative, however we would require an initial contribution of Seed funding, to the amount of R 25 000, by Founding Partners, to cover development costs.

To sign up or for more information contact or

The Custodians

WWF – South Africa

The World-Wide Fund for Nature was founded in 1961 in Switzerland, WWF is one of the world’s most recognisable and respected independent conservation organisations.

WWF South Africa has joined the global call to end plastic pollution which is engulfing our oceans and affecting human health. They have a strong stance on single use plastics and are committed to working together with all stakeholders to develop holistic and systemic solutions to make the circular plastic economy a reality in South Africa. As such they are a fitting partner to add weight to the event.  Read more

Development and Implementation Partners

About WRAP

WRAP has been working on the plastics circular economy in the UK since 2000, primarily on developing new markets for post-consumer recycled plastics and increasing householder and local authority participation in plastic packaging recycling. WRAP has credibility and a track record of delivering multi-stakeholder agreements and projects with retailers, brands, waste management companies, re-processors and local authorities, as well as owning the consumer-facing Recycle Now campaign.

WRAP is coming aboard as codesign partners in support of this initiative. They have developed The UK Plastics Pact in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) as the first of a proposed network of similar agreements internationally that align with EMF’s New Plastic Economy. This alignment of global, national and corporate goals will help deliver change further and faster.

About the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has established ‘The New Plastics Economy initiative’, an ambitious, three-year initiative to build momentum towards a plastics system that works. Applying the principles of the circular economy, it brings together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging. The initiative is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with a broad group of leading companies, cities, philanthropists, policymakers, academics, students, NGOs, and citizens. As part of this initiative EMF is setting up multiple national and regional implementation initiatives around the world, all with a common vision and direction as defined by the Global Plastics Protocol (GPP).