The R35m the government receives each year through a levy on plastic shopping bags is still not allocated to encouraging recycling or to job creation, nor is it likely to do so this year.

The Department of Environmental Affairs has meanwhile put on hold a recycling plan advocated by the paper and packaging industry 10 months ago, leaving the industry unable to increase the rate of recycling beyond 50%, executive director of the Packaging Council of SA, Andrew Marthinusen, said yesterday.

About half of all paper and packaging consumed in SA was recycled. "We need regulatory support to get that (rate) up. It is industry-driven volumes that have got us up to 49%," he said.

Department of Environmental Affairs acting director-general in charge of chemicals and waste management, Nolwazi Cobbinah, said the department had placed the plan on hold until it had written regulations for the paper and packaging, lighting and pesticides industries. "We haven't started yet ... but we will start within the year," Ms Cobbinah said.

The R35m per year that the department receives through the levy goes into its general budget.

Last June, the department shut down Buyisa e-Bag because it had not performed.

Buyisa was supposed to create jobs through recycling the bags, but recovery for recycling had remained at less than 5% since the levy was introduced, the department said.

The levy has cost shoppers between R150m and R160m a year. Buyisa was established in 2005.

In industry, there was an average growth of 23,7% in recyclables recovered and reprocessed, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research said.

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa published, for immediate implementation, the National Waste Management Strategy last month. The document acknowledged SA had a regulatory environment that did not actively promote the waste-management hierarchy and that this had limited its economic potential. About R10m a year could be earned this way.

Mr Marthinusen said that the industry "would like to see the Buyisa funds used to build infrastructure like MRFs (materials recovery facilities) and buy back centres. They did build some, but we need more."

blaines@bdfm.co.za