V&A Waterfront goes big on recycling in celebration of International Plastic Bag Free Day

2018-07-03 12:34 - Kavitha Pillay
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Plastic pollution is causing harm to our environme

Plastic pollution is causing harm to our environment, particularly our oceans. (Photo: iStock)

It's International Plastic Bag Free Day on Tuesday, 3 July, and Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, together with retailer Pick n Pay, is taking plastic recycling up a notch by implementing new initiatives to reduce plastic use at the precinct.

International Plastic Bag Free Day encourages people to live in a single-use plastic bag free world by using disposable bags and re-using plastic bags and items.

“Sound environmental alternatives to single-use plastic bags are available,” says the initiative, adding that hundreds of organisations and people will band together to raise awareness on the environmental impact and hazards of single-use plastic bags, and promote more sustainable solutions.

SEE: #EcoTravels: Hilton calls time on plastic straws

In the Mother City, the V&A Waterfront launched a public awareness campaign together with its tenant Pick n Pay to reduce single-use plastic.

In celebration of International Plastic Bag Free Day, Pick n Pay at the V&A Waterfront is offering shoppers to swop single-use plastic bags for cardboard carry-boxes and 100% biodegradable bags for the day - making the store the first retailer in the country to be completely plastic-free for the day.

Pick n Pay says that the one-day trial at its V&A Waterfront store will "gauge customer reaction which will inform further industry discussions on alternatives to plastic bags".

The biodegradable bags - given free to customers on International Plastic Bag Free day only - are made from starches, cellulose, vegetable oils and combinations, and for the customer trial will replace all plastic carrier bags, barrier bags and fruit and vegetable bags. 

Cardboard boxes, at R5 each, were also piloted as another alternative to plastic carrier bags.

Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, Pick n Pay’s director for Transformation, shares the multi-purpose and environmental benefits of opting for recyclable and reusable cardboard boxes instead of plastic bags when shopping:

In addition to these single-use plastic bag alternatives, customers can purchase fabric bags at Pick n Pay and at the Waterfront, produced by Township - a woman-owned, local community-based sewing and craft company that uses recycled materials to make the bags. The bags are priced from R20 and some of the proceeds go to the communities that make them.

Executive for Operations at V&A Waterfront, Andre Theys, says that the precinct is conscious of the urgent need to protect oceans from rising plastic pollution.

"At the Volvo Ocean Race Summit and the inaugural Ocean Life Festival in November last year, we made a public comment to do everything possible to eliminate single-use plastics across our property," says Theys.

With about 16 000 people working at the Waterfront and approximatley 26-million visitors a year, Theys says that "by appealing to our tenants and staff, and educating visitors to support our vision for a more sustainable plastic-free future, the V&A Waterfront can drive meaningful environmental change and become a bulwark between a sea of plastic waste and the ocean." 

V&A Waterfront will also have an educational activation to inform visitors of the damage caused by regular plastic use and single-use plastics, particularly emphasising its negative impact on marine life.

Swop plastic bags for a reusable V&A Waterfront bag

Shoppers are encouraged to make a pledge to reduce their plastic footprint by swopping plastic bags for a reusable V&A Waterfront bag made from recycled PET bottles. There will be two containers set up at the Waterfront between 3 - 9 July, where shoppers can make the swop.

In addition to offering an alternative to single-use plastic bags, the V&A Waterfront revealed a striking installation of a whale skeleton made from recycled plastic products, which can be viewed at the Victoria Wharf centre court for a limited time. Highlighting the drastic effect plastic pollution has on our ocean life, visitors are allowed to walk "inside" the skeleton to take photos.

Other campaigns to reduce plastic use and increase recycling

The launch of the plastic bag alternatives is an additional effort made by the V&A Waterfront which currently has environmentally responsible and sustainable measures in place to reduce plastic use, such as the implementation of a 'plastic gobbling marine drone' known as a WasteShark, which will trawl the ocean surface picking up as much as 500kgs of ocean trash at a time.

MUST-SEE: PICS: New plastic gobbling drone pilot project to see 'a plastic-free V&A Waterfront'

In 2017, V&A Waterfront CEO David Green announced that the company is set to ban plastic bags and bottles from the precinct, and the Waterfront introduced incentives for tenants who adopt proper waste disposal and recycling methods. Over the past year, the V&A Waterfront says it recycled 2 500 tons of waste and collected and diverted over 6 300 tons of waste from landfill sites - of which 81 tons came from waterways and the Maritime industry. "Approximately 24% of all the recyclable waste has been plastic," says V&A Waterfront.

Additionally, many restaurants in SA have already pledged to do away with providing customers with plastic straws with drinks and plastic bags with take-aways.

ALSO SEE: #StopSucking: SA restaurants say 'No to straws!'

While fishing and unregulated ocean use has led to much damage, one of the major contributors harming marine life is plastic pollution.

With only 0.4% of South Africa's ocean regions currently protected, a campaign - part of a new coalition - aims to achieve 5% protection of South Africa’s oceans within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2019, 10% by 2020, and eventually protect at least 30% of our oceans by 2030 for long-term sustainable use.

Called the Only This Much campaign, it reports that South Africa's entire Marine Protected Area network is less than one third the size of Kruger National Park. Click here to join the campaign online.

Dr Jean Harris of Wildoceans says that MPAs provide "ecosystem services, ocean risk mitigation, food security, ecotourism benefits, moderation of climate change, and improving resilience to impacts of other global stressors". She says that the alliance hopes to boost marine conservation in SA and "catalyse action across the region.” 

ALSO SEE: #OnlyThisMuch: New alliance for greater care of SA's oceans pushes for 10% protection by 2020

This new alliance of national and international organisations aim to build support for these MPAs by creating awareness of its value. It has even seen the support of world-renowned conservation influencers such as Leonardo DiCaprio who has taken to Twitter to encourage support of the #OnlyThisMuch campaign for greater protection of SA's oceans.

HAVE YOU SEEN? Leonardo DiCaprio encourages support of #OnlyThisMuch campaign for protection of SA's oceans

How to reduce plastic use and save our oceans?

  • Join the “Only This Much” campaign and spread awareness.
  • Make ethical and sustainable seafood choices - follow WWF SASSI to check.
  • Stop buying and using plastic products. Reuse old plastic bags when shopping and invest in reusable straws.
  • Don't buy items that exploit marine life.
  • Get involved in a beach clean-up, and pick up litter whenever you see any along the coast. Read here for more information.
  • Visit Aquariums to increase your love and knowledge of marine life.