Plastic shopping bags are seemingly everywhere. They pose a major threat to the environment.
This is why calls for national governments to ban plastic bags are on the increase. South Africa has started an inquiry into the impacts of a nationwide ban on plastic shopping bags.
More African countries, like Kenya and Botswana, have already implemented such bans which includes the manufacture, importation and use of plastic shopping bags. But a total ban could hold negative effects for the South African economy as well as the plastics industry. A better solution to plastic pollution lies in recycling, rather than a ban. South Africa is a global leader when it comes to plastics recycling.
Government must support plastic recycling efforts
The national government can help by providing better waste management systems and infrastructure in order to support recycling. Such an investment will also increase job opportunities because recycling facilities will be able to grow and employ more people to work.
Employment is created by recycling in a formal and informal capacity, which helps the South African economy. Improving plastic recycling efforts will not only benefit the environment but also the economy. Smaller recycling facilities just need some assistance from the government. Every citizen can help by recycling plastic waste, rather than simply discarding it.
Plastic has a lower carbon footprint than cotton and paper
Plastic bags offer advantages over other materials and they are very cheap to make. They are resilient and durable materials that can withstand a lot of wear and tear. They also have a lower carbon footprint than paper and cotton alternatives, as they produce less greenhouse gases during the manufacturing process.
As there are so many plastic bags in circulation, it also means they are a never-ending source of recyclable material for correctly-equipped recycling facilities. This further benefits the waste management sector and boosts South Africa’s economy. Locally, thousands of people survive by picking waste from landfills and illegal dumps and selling it to recycling facilities. With this in mind, plastic bags is a source of income for tens of thousands of people.
Recycling is the best solution for addressing plastic pollution
Plastic bags are easily swept away by wind and rain. This makes them a common litter item found in the environment. But if plastic bags were all properly disposed of by consumers and handled by professional waste management and recycling companies, this would not be the case.
Recycling is still the best solution to addressing plastic waste in the environment. Improved waste management strategies will reduce litter, but the economic benefits that plastic shopping bags bring to South Africa will remain in place.
Recycled plastic bags can be reintroduced into the packaging stream, saving money and increasing their lifespan. Government should carefully consider these impacts before finally deciding the fate of plastic bags.
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