It will take a lot more than beach cleanups to save SA from ...


It will take a lot more than beach cleanups to save SA from plastic

A concerted, coordinated drive by both the government and private sector is needed, say two experts

Jackie May and Aaniyah Omardien

After recent big ocean swells, SA’s beaches have become clear evidence of a plastic crisis. We collected two bags of waste in less than 10 minutes on Camps Bay beach last week. There are the usual culprits such as earbuds, bottle tops, masks, single sweet wrappings, toothbrushes ... but most of the litter is small pieces that have been broken up and degraded by the force of the ocean, sand and wind. 

Yes, plastic can be an efficient, durable and affordable material for many uses but it should only be used if its end-of-life is managed properly. Our dependence on plastic is a dangerous habit, and there is no indication that we are even beginning to break it. Quite the opposite. 

Research by Dr Peter Ryan from UCT shows that between 1994 and 2012, beach litter in Cape Town increased by 300%, more than three quarters of which is plastic packaging. Globally production of plastic is expected to triple by 2050. A UCT study indicates that only 17% of plastic is recycled in SA. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that globally only 9% of plastic ever made has been recycled...

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