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Researching a Deposit Refund Scheme for South Africa
July 7, 2023

The Norwegian Embassy and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (Alliance) are pleased to announce the co-funding of a study to research the feasibility, cost, and impact of a proposed mandatory single use beverage Deposit Refund Scheme (DRS) for South Africa. The study will be conducted by University of the Western Cape (UWC) in association with Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd. (Eunomia).

The overarching objective of this study is to determine what the likely impacts (costs and benefits) of introducing a mandatory single use DRS would be in South Africa.

South Africa generates 2.4 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, or 41 kg per person, which is higher than the global average of 29 kg per capita. Of this waste, PET beverage bottles are the most leaked post-consumer plastic . The benefits of existing DRS to manage this waste and significantly increase collection and recycling rates as well as reduce littering are well established in a number of developed markets globally.

Last year (August 2022) the Norwegian Embassy partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Changing Markets to fund WWF’s research into existing stakeholder views on a DRS for South Africa. This research determined that although there would be some potential advantages in introducing a DRS there are also several remaining questions that need to be answered. This study’s research objectives and methodology are designed to provide answers to those outstanding questions, taking into account the unique requirements and circumstances of South Africa. These factors include its geography, the retail environment, a significant informal sector, and the jobs that the proposed DRS could create both directly and indirectly, as well as consideration of materials to be included and the risk of fraud.

Nicholas Kolesch, VP of Projects for the Alliance, comments, “Deposit Refund Schemes represent an important solution model to realise value from plastic waste, however it is important to consider local circumstances during implementation. The Alliance is pleased to support this study alongside several other projects in South Africa aiming to bring an end to plastic waste and further the development of a circular economy.”

The potential benefits of a DRS for South Africa:

  • Providing an effective and widely accepted method of increasing the collection rate of in-scope beverage containers;

  • Development of a socially just, integrated DRS model;

  • Creation of healthy, green jobs and income opportunities for waste pickers;

  • Diversion of waste from landfill, reduced loss to the environment, and a reduction in littering;

  • Improved quality of recyclate feedstock supporting the further development of the local recycling industry;

  • Increased recycling and reduced carbon emissions.

UWC and Eunomia will work together on this study to assess the impacts (both positive and negative) of the implementation of a DRS. UWC will bring their extensive local knowledge on existing waste management practice and the informal sector whilst Eunomia bring their extensive experience in designing and evaluating potential DRS across a wide range of different countries, making them ideal study partners. The study also includes provision for waste picker surveys and interviews with informal sector sales channels.

Contribution from stakeholders is key and their input is designed into all stages in the study, including the establishment of a stakeholder Steering Group. This will include representation from the study’s funders as well as WWF South Africa, the Western Cape Government, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, and the UNEP Office in South Africa. In addition, the project will have a Technical Advisory Committee which will include a range of other stakeholder organisations.

The study will span nine months and will culminate in a full Technical Report on the feasibility, cost and impact of a proposed mandatory Deposit Refund Scheme (DRS) for South Africa.

Organisational Summaries:

About the Norwegian Embassy
The Norwegian Government is represented in South Africa by its Embassy in Pretoria. The Embassy assists Norwegian citizens and businesses, and engages in all spheres of the South African Government, business, civil society and academia, on topics of diplomacy, consular affairs, politics, the economy and trade/investment. The Embassy also engages in development cooperation and knowledge sharing.

About The Alliance to End Plastic Waste
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (Alliance) is a global non-profit organisation with the mission to end plastic waste in the environment. Its focus is implementing projects and investing in innovative solutions to develop or enhance waste management systems. Its portfolio comprises of over 50 projects worldwide.

Tackling plastic waste is a complex challenge that requires collective action. Since 2019, the Alliance has convened a global network of industry leaders across the plastics value chain, together with government, civil society, entrepreneurs, and communities to work towards advancing a circular economy for plastic waste. For more information, visit: www.endplasticwaste.org

About UWC
UWC is a research-led university responsive to the needs of a changing world through excellence in teaching, learning and research and the generation and application of new knowledge.

Firmly anchored in its local and sub-regional context and inspired by its distinctive academic role in building a more equitable and dynamic society, the University continues to empower its students, staff and partners to advance its mission of serving the greater public good and searching for humane and sustainable solutions to the challenges of our time.

This is pursued through high academic standards, intellectual rigour and productive partnerships and networks beyond the confines of disciplinary and geographic boundaries.

About Eunomia Research and Consulting
Eunomia is an independent sustainability consultancy driven by a genuine passion to make a positive change to the clients we work with and the communities they operate in.

Our consultants are experts in the field with extensive experience working on DRS projects across the globe which affords us unique insight into finding the right solutions for our clients, local communities, and the planet.

For more information about Eunomia, please visit www.eunomia.co.uk

Press contact: Andrew Couch, PR & Social Media Manager at Eunomia [email protected]

De Kock, L. 2022. Feasibility of a mandatory Deposit Refund Scheme for beverage container packaging in South Africa: Workshop report. WWF South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa.