Taking action on problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through elimination, redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models

The SA Plastics Pact defines problematic plastic in the following way:

  • It is not reusable, recyclable (technically and/or economically not recyclable), or compostable.
  • It contains, or its manufacturing requires, hazardous chemicals that pose a significant risk to human health or the environment
  • It hinders or disrupts the recyclability or compostability of other items.
  • It has a high likelihood of being littered or ending up in the natural environment.

SA Plastics Pact members have agreed on 12 problematic plastics to phase out in a phase 1 list and have a draft phase 2 list under development.

Progress towards Target 1:

Focus areas

PET/PVC shrink sleeves on PET bottles can be found in beverages, mayonnaise, peanut butter, and salad dressings

Why the focus on PET/PVC shrink sleeves on PET bottles? This packaging type constitutes the largest tonnage of problematic and unnecessary plastics on the Phase 1 list in the Pact membership.

PET beverage bottles are well-recycled in South Africa, calculated at above a 60% output recycling rate in South Africa, but the PET/PVC shrink sleeve means the bottle cannot be recycled. The PET/PVC shrink sleeve has different properties to the PET bottle, and the shrink sleeve material does not separate from the bottle material in the recycling process. This causes inconsistencies in the recycled plastic and can even require the plant to be shut down and flushed before restarting the plant.


Our members are working to substitute the problematic shrink sleeve with a plastic shrink sleeve that separates from the PET bottle material in the recycling plant.

Barrier bags to weigh loose fruit and vegetables in-store

Why the focus on barriers bags? Barrier bags are the very thin plastic bags that are used at tills to separate different goods, and are used to place loose fruit and vegetables in for weighing. These bags constitute the largest number of items of Target 1 problematic and unnecessary plastics in the Pact membership. Our members have largely removed barrier bags at tills. These very light thin bags are rarely collected for recycling and often littered. If they do enter the recycling stream, they often get wrapped around equipment and do not enter the recycling process.

Note: In 2020, barrier bags were underreported in the membership.


Some SA Plastics Pact retailers are collaborating to design a pilot using reusable containers in-store to replace barrier bags used to weigh loose fruit and vegetables.