Activists fight pollution

2018-06-05 06:01
Zandvlei has also been hard hit by plastic pollution.

Zandvlei has also been hard hit by plastic pollution.

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The Waste Reduction Far South group is launching the “De-plastic-ing False Bay and the Far South” programme with the aim of reducing plastic pollution.

The launch, which is happening today (5 June), coincides with World Environment Day. The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.

Following a successful workshop at Fish Hoek Civic Centre last year involving recyclers, upcyclers, local government and the public, Far South activists will now be visiting restaurants and cafes along the eastern and western seaboard of the southern peninsula to assess how these businesses are dealing with the challenge of single-use plastic packaging and other items. They are planning to survey at least 50 restaurants in a period of a month.

Patrick Dowling from the Waste Reduction Far South group says this is part of a bigger initiative.

“There are a lot of supporting organisations and we are doing our part. This area is not the worst in the world but there are people in Muizenberg that are experiencing it badly. The pollution is done by local people and we have to tackle it. Our main focus will be on restaurants,” he says.

Business owners will be asked 12 questions about how they make choices between available products, the consideration of price, awareness of the bigger environmental picture and the influence of customer demand among other things.

“There are already several encouraging stories about outlets. Espresso Dot Kom in Kommetjie has no plastic straws, provides bamboo-based takeaway containers and will give you free coffee the first time you bring your own cup. The Hub in Scarborough has no single-use plastic items at all and Salt in Kalk Bay gives free coffee in exchange for bags of litter before 09:00,” he says.

Dowling will be joined by other volunteers coordinating the survey. They are Kim Kruyshaar, Jaci Jane Jenkins, Karen Grey-Kilfoil, Cara Dowling, Patrick Dowling, Fran Meyer-Gebhardt, Liz Palmer, Kevin Rack and Janine Versfeld. Results of the survey will be published as soon as it is completed­.

South Africa is the 11th largest global contributor per capita of marine plastic pollution, a massive and increasingly threatening problem that affects the health of people and the planet.

Among the worst offenders are plastic bottles, sold at an astonishing rate of a million per minute, plastic straws and sticks, snack packets, Styrofoam containers and plastic cutlery, all causing death and destruction as they strangle, entangle, form country-sized ocean gyres, enter gut systems and slowly break down into ever smaller but not less dangerous particles in the environment. Dowling says although clean-up campaigns are being run, a lot still needs to be done.

“School kids and other organisations are cleaning up the area and beaches but what we need is a permanent solution. We need to tackle this at the source as it is a major problem­.”

There is an increasing body of evidence pointing to the chemical components, such as Bisphenol A (BPA), of many plastics having disruptive effects on human health, Dowling says.

“Policymakers and industry seem unable to stem the tide, so it is up to thoughtful citizens to shrug off the obedient consumer label and lead behaviour change.”

The longer term objective is to raise public consciousness significantly when it comes to resource use in general with a view to much more sustainable consumer behaviour and then responses from government, manufacturers and retailers that match such a trend.

“Readers who want to know what they can do should be thinking about the items they buy and how they are packaged, asking retailers about reducing single-use plastic offerings and suggesting alternatives. When it comes to recycling, do not presume that because you put clean plastics in your clear bag or drop them off at a depot that they will not end up in a landfill or worse. The triangular recycling sign is no guarantee. Numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 are most likely to be reabsorbed into the system while 3, 6 and 7 often cause problems. Then colours and fillers often make life difficult too. Make your strong views on plastics known,” concludes Dowling.

For more information, email Patrick Dowling at patrick­@­tops.org.za.

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