New plastic bag specifications good news for environment

OCTOBER 29, 2014

The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) says manufacturers and retailers who do not comply with the revised compulsory specifications for plastic carrier bags and flat bags, will be charged.

The General Manager for Chemicals, Mechanicals and Materials at the NRCS, Thomas Madzivhe, said those found in possession of plastic bags that do not meet the requirements of the revised compulsory specifications will have to hand them over to the NRCS to be destroyed.

Madzivhe said plastic bags that are thinner than 24 microns (micrometres) do not meet the requirements and are impossible to recycle.

He said these plastic bags contribute to littering, which has a negative impact on the image of the country and affects tourism and the environment sector badly.

“Everyone must just comply. This is compulsory. There will be no more negotiations. Those who do not comply will be charged,” he said on Wednesday.

The revised compulsory specifications came into effect on 23 October. They were approved by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies in September 2013.

The revised compulsory specifications cover the thickness and printing of the bags, but exclude bread bags, refuse bags, bin liners, household plastic bags and primary packaging.

Madzivhe said where there is a need, non-complying manufacturers, distributors and retailers will be taken to court and the court will decide whether they pay a fine or if they should be imprisoned.

Since Monday, in Gauteng alone, over one billion plastic carrier bags that did not meet the requirements have been confiscated from three retailors and they will be destroyed.

The NCRS launched a national campaign on 27 October to inspect the plastic carrier bag industry to ensure compliance with the latest compulsory specifications.

The Operational Manager at the NRCS, Rhoda Mbukwane, said an intense inspection will last for a week in the province and will be rolled out to other provinces thereafter.

“There will be inspectors in all the nine provinces, who will continue with regular inspections,” said Mbukwane.

The implementation of the revised compulsory specifications for plastic carrier bags and flat bags is aimed at reducing plastic litter in the environment and promoting the reuse and recycling of plastic bags. It was first promulgated in 2003 in conjunction with the then Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

Madzivhe said people recognise that there is value in collecting plastics bags and trading them, which has a positive impact on the country’s environment and economy.

He said any plastic bag that is not in line with regulatory requirements should not be sold on the market. Manufacturers must get approval from the NRCS so they can get the NRCS mark on each plastic bag.

He said all retailors pay a levy for plastic bags and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) deducts six cents for each plastic bag sold.

However, Madzivhe could not say whether the regulatory requirements will affect buyers or not, as the retailors decided on pricing. -