Late last week the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) announced a new partnership between South Africa and Japan that would see both countries collaborate on addressing plastic pollution locally.

The project, which has reportedly received R25 million in funding, plans to look at the South African plastics industry and identify environmentally sustainable alternatives over the next three years, according to SA News.

“I am delighted to take part in this ground-breaking ceremony between Japan and South Africa in an attempt to reduce marine plastics pollution through renewable means. The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) welcomes the support by the Japanese government and the partnership between UNIDO and CSIR, since biodegradable plastics locally are just being introduced,” said dti deputy minister Nomalungelo Gina.

“In order to maximise the environmental benefits from biodegradable plastics, further research and development will be necessary to optimise the production by increasing the efficiencies of various unit processes involved such as the separation processes and the integration process,” Gina added.

The deputy minster also acknowledged the need to tackle the growing problem of pollution, and plastic pollution in particular, by embracing technology in finding renewable alternatives. She also noted that locally much has been done in addressing pollution with increased recycling efforts.

“Locally we are seeing signs of improvement in the recycling space. More than 334 780 tons of material are recycled into raw material that are used in the manufacture of refuse bags, plastic bags, milk cartons and even waterproof sleeping bags for the homeless,” noted Gina.

“The impact of this work will play an important role in increasing local technical skills and will eventually lead to local job creation in manufacturing,” she concluded.

Whether initiatives like the recent SA and Japan collaboration can indeed assist with job creation is unclear, but at the very least we’re hoping it can bring about fundamental changes in the way the local plastics industry goes about its business.

For now though, no goals or benchmarks have been set out over the next three years for this new collaborative effort.

[Image – Photo by Chauldry Agho on Unsplash]