#EcoTravels: It’s time to ditch the plastic

2017-06-30 06:30
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Cape Town - Plastic is a leading cause of destruction to marine life, and dumping of this non-biodegradable product in the ocean is increasing at an alarming rate.

From 30 large plastic bags found inside a rare beaked whale that was euthanised, to a turtle that had to endure excruciating pain when a straw got lodged up its nostril, plastic is causing great harm to the ocean's inhabitants and humans are to blame.

If you have not already implemented a form recycling plastic in your home – whether it be reusing plastic shopping bags, plastic cups and cutlery – then it is vital that you start taking some measure to assist in combating this growing problem.

SEE: PICS: Solar Impulse 2 flies over 'plastic waste as big as a continent'

One of the ways you can start contributing towards making a difference is to join in on Two Oceans Aquarium’s campaign and be a part of the activities in celebration of International Plastic Bag Free Day on Monday, 3 July.

The Two Oceans Aquarium begins the month of Plastic Free July by highlighting International Plastic Bag Free Day on 3 July.

The Aquarium appeals to the public to refuse single-use plastic shopping bags - especially on 3 July. The Aquarium also wants the public to accept the Plastic Free July challenge that entails refusing plastic take-away containers and cutlery, take-away coffee cups and lids, straws, plastic bags and plastic beverage bottles, for the entire month of July and beyond.

Single-use plastic shopping bags have a massive impact on the environment. According to Two Oceans Aquarium, South African consumers use approximately 8 billion shopping bags each year; of these roughly 96% end up in landfill and also threaten the lives of marine and terrestrial animals.

SEE: Save our ocean life with these 6 promises

"Research has shown that the average functioning lifespan of a plastic shopping bag is a mere 20 minutes, after which it is discarded," says the Aquarium.

'Rethink the Bag'

The Two Oceans Aquarium supports a ban of single-use plastic shopping bags in South Africa through its Rethink the Bag campaign - launched by Hayley McLellan, the Aquarium’s environmental campaigner, who educates the public and retailer on such issues.

Join the movement for a plastic shopping bag free South Africa by clicking here - sign the petition and complete the survey.

“A plastic shopping bag free South Africa is certainly achievable in the near future. All role-players, especially consumers, remain responsible for the approximately eight billion plastic shopping bags we use every year in South Africa. Remember that demand drives supply, so let’s simply stop demanding and choosing them! Celebrate International Plastic Bag Free Day on the 3 July, and every day thereafter, by always choosing reusable bags instead," says McLellan.

Plastic Free July is a worldwide campaign that aims to raise awareness of the problem with single-use disposable plastics and to challenge people to do something about the problem. The pledge can be made on www.plasticfreejuly.org and remember to use the #ChooseToRefuse on social media.

Bag exchange programme

SPAR Western Cape and Namibia, an avid supporter of the Rethink the Bag campaign will, from 3 to 9 July 2017, run a bag exchange programme for their customers.

Customers are encouraged to take ten single-use plastic bags and exchange them for one reusable bag at their nearest SPAR store. Visit SPAR on Facebook and Twitter for more information.

Why we need to use less plastic

Estimates are that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean, by weight, than fish.

From the tiniest organism to the largest ocean behemoths, plastic poses a threat to all organisms in the ocean. Over a million seabirds are killed each year due to plastic pollution and with over 51 trillion pieces of micro plastics in the ocean, microscopic plankton are feeding on plastic which causes the plastic to enter the food chain. 

  • Animals (marine and terrestrial) often mistake plastic bags for food. Once ingested, the animals die from intestinal blockages and starvation.
  • Plastics break up, and do not degrade. The chemicals leached from plastic have a compounded toxic impact on the food chain.
  • Plastic bags also block sewage systems, which leads to flooding.
  • Eighty percent of all marine litter is plastic.
  • Plastic bags can last between 500 and 1000 years before they break up.

4 ways to reduce your plastic use every day

1. Opt for reusable bags instead of single-use plastic bags

2. Drink tap water as much as possible, rather than bottled water

2. Say NO to straws

3. Say no to balloons

You can also get involved in beach clean-up projects that take place at various beaches across the country.

On the first Saturday of each month, a beach clean-up is arranged at a different Cape Town beach. On Saturday 1 July, the clean up takes place at Ons Huisie in Big Bay, along the R27.

For more on how you can contribute to saving the ocean, click here.

McLellan says that “By consistently using long-life alternatives, for all single-use plastic items (straws, bottles, bags, coffee cups, utensils), we tap into a deeper value-centric state of being that is ecologically driven, shifting us away from being the throw-away society we have become."

"Making better every day choices naturally enhances our awareness of the footprint each of us has on this planet. Luckily, creating new environmental habits can be swift and simple by participating in the Plastic Free July campaign,” she adds.

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