It's not them, it's us to blame for SA's plastic oceans


It's not them, it's us to blame for SA's plastic oceans

Recent UCT study shows plastic fragments on our beaches come from local sources

Senior science reporter

Local is not lekker when it comes to the pollution on our shores.
A recent study by the University of Cape Town has shown that the naming and blaming of “distant nations” with much bigger plastic industries are without grounds because the plastic fragments on our beaches and adjacent coastal water come from “local sources”.
The study, carried out by the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology and the Marine Research Institute, looked at pollution on our beaches every 10 years since the mid-1990s.
Debris was sampled at 82 sandy beaches along the South African coast in 1994, 2005 and 2015.
Man-made items collected from the sieved material included wood, wax, glass, metal, cigarette butts, rubber and paper.
But, “plastic items were by far the most abundant, comprising 99% of litter items,” say the researchers.According to the Save our Seas Foundation in Cape Town, “Today’s throw-away culture is a nightmare for our oceans – plastic is a scourge for both humanity and wildlife. It not only turns the beauty of once pristine beaches into the ugliness of a dumping ground, but at sea our rubbish is also causing incalculable damage to marine ecosystems.”
Says lead author Professor Peter Ryan: “The highest concentrations occurred at beaches in the four main urban centres: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban,”
Fragments of manufactured items, broken down by sunlight and physical abrasion, were found to be the main pollutants.
“We need a complete overhaul of solid waste management in South Africa, from government to grass-roots levels,” Ryan said. “Probably the biggest failing occurs at municipal level, where there is inadequate waste management.”
More than half of the solid waste in South Africa is “mismanaged”, compared to 12% in Brazil and 2% in the USA, he said.

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