University of Johannesburg: UJ becomes a supporting member of South African Plastics Pact

​The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is now a supporting member of the South African Plastics Pact, which tackles the plastic waste challenge along the value chain in South Africa to increase sustainable practices and circularity, focusing on the packaging sector. The Pact and its various members will accelerate the translation towards a circular plastic packaging sector in South Africa, joining 8 other national and 2 regional Pacts as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact Network.

FEBE’s Process Energy and Environmental Technology Station (UJ PEETS), initiated the involvement with the SA Plastics Pact, resulting in UJ being the first academic institution to sign up as a supporting member of the SA Plastics Pact, building the foundation for future leaders, researchers, businesses and change-makers to create a sustainable future that is socio-economically just and that conserves our limited natural resources.

UJ PEETS Project Lead, Katharina Gihring, explains: “At UJ-PEETS, we support small and medium enterprises to grow the Green and Circular Economy. Therefore the SA Plastics Pact is an ideal match. The Pact reflects the holistic approach of co-creation and systems thinking that we also apply in our projects. We believe that change has to happen at each institution, starting with our own, to contribute towards a sustainable future. We are excited to walk this journey with the Pact.”

Globally, single-use plastics negatively impact the environment, polluting land and water systems, posing a health threat to animals and humans while mainly being produced from non-renewable resources. The SA Plastics Pact is a living lab that has embarked on an integrative approach along the plastic value chain to tackle the challenges around plastic.

“The partnership will accelerate scaleup of new technologies, deliver economic impact, and build supply chains, jobs and growth in South Africa.”

UJ supports the aims of the Pact and its interdisciplinary approach, which will be used for campus management and educate students while exposing them to real-life challenges. UJ’s Chief Operating Officer, Prof Andre Swart, comments: “At the University of Johannesburg we inspire our community to transform and serve humanity through innovation and the collaborative pursuit of knowledge. We are committed to reimagine a sustainable future, which we implement in our activities, to enhance change and transformation. We are excited to join the SA Plastics Pact as their holistic approach to solve complex challenges aligns with our vision and strategic imperatives.”

With UJ’s wide-reaching footprint, starting with 50 000+ students and 4 000+ staff members, sustainability can be lived and not only taught by implementing sustainable campus practices and showcasing new business opportunities and innovations. UJ PEETS coordinates a drive across relevant faculties and their students by integrating various targets in the curricula with the lectures. Current activities are investigating the feasibility of replacing single-use plastics (via FoS), reducing/upcycling of plastics on its campuses, packaging design through the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), and a communication strategy for the Pact and its members (via Humanities). In addition, the SA Plastics Pact will have access to UJ’s network for innovative collaborations to further the aims of a sustainable green and circular economy for South Africa.

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