A long stretch of beach lapped by the warm Indian ocean set within a coastal forest in remote Northern Kwazulu Natal, where even in winter the temperature is in the high 20’s– sounds like the perfect holiday destination? And it would have been, had it not been for plastic.
Like most, I’m aware of how plastic pollution is affecting our oceans as well as our landfills. But a recent family beach getaway gave me a fresh perspective on just how dire the plastic problem has become. Inspite of the remoteness of this particular beach, which is set within a protected nature reserve, where visitor numbers are controlled – PLASTIC was everywhere: in the dunes, on the beach, in the sand and floating alongside as we swam. Where once the tide brought ashore seashells, jellyfish, bluebottle or kelp now it deposits plastic products in various shapes, sizes and stages of decomposition.
This beach visit really brought home the true meaning behind these statistics from the United Nations Environment Programme:
• Up to 5 trillion plastic bags used each year
• 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean each year
• 17 million barrels of oil used on plastic production each year
• 1 million plastic bottles bought every minute
• 100,000 marine animals killed by plastics each year
• 100 years for plastic to degrade in the environment
• 90% of bottled water found to contain plastic particles
• 83% of tap water found to contain plastic particles
• 50% of consumer plastics are single use
• 10% of all human-generated waste is plastic
The other lessons I learnt from this recent beach break, is that there are simply not enough bins in public areas, bins are far too infrequently emptied nor are beach goers willing to pick up the litter around them. While I can’t directly control any of these, I can take responsibility for my own action. I have decided that I need to go further than picking up litter where ever I see it or recycling or lobbying for better waste management.
On this, World Environment Day, I pledge:
to refuse single use plastic products (like straws, bottles, take away coffee lids, etc) unless I believe it will be recycled
to recycle any remaining plastic in my household
to better support non-profits working to clean up our oceans and save our marine life
to use my power as a consumer to shop brands and products that share my environmental concerns
to educate as many people as I can about why we should be recycling and or refusing plastic.
All big things start with one small act, if each one of us does just one thing it will be a start toward our spaces bring free from plastic pollution whether it’s a park, our suburbs or a beach.
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