Artículo | 22 Feb, 2019

How South Africa will beat plastic pollution

Through the MARPLASTICCs project, IUCN is working with South Africa, one of the world’s top 20 contributors of marine plastic pollution, to close the plastic tap.

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Earlier this year, IUCN and South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) held a Theory of Change (ToC) workshop in Pretoria as a first step towards tackling the plastic pollution in South Africa. The ToC methodology is a tool used to stimulate more responsive and accountable project management, and to provide a robust foundation for evaluation, communication, and planning. The baseline generated through ToC workshops helps countries tackle plastic pollution by promoting best practices on how plastics are managed along their entire life cycle.

The workshop brought together stakeholders from across the country to ensure that MARPLASTICCs efforts are aligned with the needs of South Africa, and that a common vision for the project is effectively defined.  

By 2030, we hope that targeted campaigns will have influenced behaviour change, thereby contributing significantly to reducing plastic leakage into the environment,” said Mr Dumisani Buthelezi, Director, General Waste, Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

“Mismanaged plastic waste is the biggest problem here. The DEA is looking at the effectiveness of existing policies and regulations which affect the use of plastic. We are capturing the perspectives of various stakeholders across different sectors to inform the development of policies,” added Mr Buthelezi.

Existing policy and regulatory frameworks related to plastics in South Africa and ongoing initiatives that complement the MARPLASTICCs project were discussed during the workshop. Participants also shared opportunities and challenges related to plastic waste with her Excellency Cecilia Julin, Swedish Ambassador to South Africa. Through MARPLASTICCs, Sweden is generously supporting countries like South Africa to tackle the global crisis.

Her Excellency Cecilia Julin, Swedish Ambassador to South Africa       Photo: IUCN ESARO

“SIDA is proud to be supporting MARPLASTICCs. One of the project’s goals is to deliver plastic footprint methodologies that will help drive effective action to reduce plastic pollution and prevent further repercussions on biodiversity, human wellbeing and economic growth,” said Ambassador Julin.

The majority of participants agreed that non-recyclable plastics should not be allowed in South Africa and that the DEA should strengthen engagement with the South African Revenue Service so that opportunities which bring economic value to plastic waste can be explored. The need to investigate the potential impacts of plastics on public health while addressing challenges associated with tribally-owned lands - where the role of municipalities in avoiding illegal dumping is not clear - was highlighted.

Participants further emphasised the role of communication and research in educating the general public, and the need for thorough standards in regulating the plastics sector.

Participants also recognised that multi-stakeholder collaboration is essential when dealing with the plastic pollution crisis.

TOC workshop participants       Photo: IUCN ESARO

“It is important to mainstream MARPLASTICCs within national priorities to ensure that the project makes a meaningful contribution and paves the way for South Africa and other countries to close the tap on plastic pollution,” said Peter Manyara, MARPLASTICCs Regional Project Officer, IUCN Eastern and Southern Africa Region.


Plastic pollution has become a global problem threatening our environment, health and economies. If we do not act now, the problem will only get worse. Through the Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities (MARPLASTICCs) project, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), IUCN is working closely with governments, industries and society in Africa and Asia to reduce and control plastic pollution.