TEN years after the government started plastic bag recycling, there is no clear indication where the money has gone.
In a bid to reduce the number of plastic bags and the litter caused by them, government introduced a 3c levy on recyclable ones in 2003, meaning shoppers would have to buy bags from supermarket counters or take their own.
At the time, the government said the money from plastic bag manufacturers would be collected by the Treasury and allocated to the creation of green jobs and the building of new waste plants.
Initially, the handling of the funds sourced from the Treasury was outsourced to Buyisa e-Bags.
But a year ago, the Environmental Affairs Department took over the task amid allegations of corruption and the abuse of public funds, environmental affairs spokesman Albi Modise said.
Buyisa had established 15 plastic bag "buy-back" centres and supported 25 existing facilities, Modise said .
But after having spent a week with a media inquiry, he said it was not possible to say how many of the jobs promised, said at the time to be between 1900 and 3800, had been created or how many bags had been recycled.
"Currently there is no obligation on the recycling industry to report on numbers of bags recycled," Modise said.
But this would be rectified by new regulations.
Modise said Buyisa had collected about R174-million in 2009-2010. No more recent information was available.
Retailers are also in the dark as to where the levy, now 4c a bag, has gone.
Spar executive Mike Prentice said the levy was already attached to the price retailers paid the manufacturing industry.
"What government is doing [with the money] ... we don't know."
Depending on the region and the prices competitors charged, Prentice said bags cost consumers about 40c.
"They cost us more than we are selling them for," said Prentice.
Shoprite-Checkers spokesman Sarita van Wyk said the price of plastic bags was not regulated by government.
The company sold its bags for 39c.
Van Wyk also said it was not clear where the money raised had been spent.
Pick n Pay, which sells the bags for 39c each, was also unaware.
"As per the legislation, we contribute to the plastic bag levy, but we have not had any updated information from government ... regarding how this levy is spent,or of the establishment of any recycling plants funded by the levy," spokesman Jennifer Crocker said.
A plastic manufacturing industry representative could not be reached for comment.