Coast KZN

06 Jun 2018

SA joins world in seeking to eradicate plastic

Cape Times Picture: On World Environment Day, experts drew attention to around 8 million tons of plastics dumped in the sea every year.

South Africa has joined the rest of the world in calling for plastic pollution to be eradicated, with the government urging citizens to avoid single-use plastic products.

As part of marking the World Environment Day yesterday, under the theme Beating Plastic Pollution, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa reiterated sentiment expressed during the department’s budget speech last month that South Africa was committed to minimising plastic pollution.

She said her department was looking at introducing a raft of measures to curb plastic pollution.

One such measure is phasing out the use of micro-beads in the production of cosmetics. The department is in consultation with the cosmetics industry in this regard.

This comes as experts are drawing attention to around 8 million tons of plastics dumped in the sea every year.

The UN said the world’s over-reliance on plastic poses serious consequences for the environment and human health.

The department and Trade and Industry as well as its agencies, the SA Bureau of Standards and the National Regulator for, including the National Treasury, will shortly be reviewing the implementation and impact of the country’s plastic bag policies. “Plastic pollution is particularly insidious because once plastics enter into the environment, they do not biodegrade, but simply break down into smaller pieces over time,” said Molewa.

“This has a detrimental effect on our environment, more so once this pollution enters our oceans and endangers marine life and fragile marine ecosystems,” she said.

To mark World Environment Day, Molewa announced the upcoming launch of the #ThumaMina Green Good Deeds, for a clean and beautiful South Africa campaign, in response to the Presidential Thuma Mina Initiative.

John Duncan, head of World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa’s Marine Programme, said: “Plastic items such as straws, coffee cup lids, earbuds, individual sweet wrappers, plastic cutlery, stirrers and shopping bags are generally used for less than 20 minutes before they are thrown away.

As it is highly unlikely they will be recycled, they are likely to outlive you and your grandchildren by a couple of hundred years.

Meanwhile, retailer Food Lover’s Market is launching a Withdraw The Straw campaign and will be rolling out a campaign of replacing all plastic straws with paper ones, in its stores nationally.

Andrew Millson, head of sustainability for the group, said: “The Withdraw the Straw project is in line with the philosophy of sustainable values, that embraces our responsibility to the environment.

“The facts around plastic straws are shocking and it is one of the most common items found during beach clean-ups.

“As they are lightweight and easily blown away by the wind, they often end up in our marine waters.

“Animals such as turtles ingest these plastics which can lead to their deaths.”