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Regulating Plastics Waste, Stakeholder Engagement and Sustainability Challenges in South Africa

Abstract

In May 2003, the South African government enacted regulations banning the production of thin-film plastic shopping bags. The government advocated that such thin-film plastic shopping bags were indiscriminately discarded because they had no economic and recycling value. However, in as much as the regulations led to significant reductions in plastic shopping bags in the environment, the law resulted in severe unintended negative consequences, as jobs were lost with some businesses in the plastic shopping bag manufacturing sector closing down. The paper also reveals that key stakeholders, such as industry, business and labour, lobbied against the introduction of the regulations but without success. On average, business went down by about 83% with a conservative 25% reduction in employment. Drawing insights from the Irish and Australian experiences, this paper critically reviews sustainability debates and responses surrounding environmental regulation and business, with a special focus on the Plastic Bag Regulations in South Africa. Lessons learnt are presented with the intention to provide insights for future waste product or other environmental regulation initiatives in South Africa and elsewhere in the region.

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Acknowledgements

Authors thank Nampak and Codesria for financial support.

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Correspondence to Godwell Nhamo.

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Nhamo, G. Regulating Plastics Waste, Stakeholder Engagement and Sustainability Challenges in South Africa. Urban Forum 19, 83–101 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-008-9022-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-008-9022-0

Keywords

  • Environmental regulation
  • Stakeholders
  • Plastics
  • Waste management