IT’S an extremely serious situation. Plastic pollution is threatening our planet and as indiscriminate consumers, we’re solely responsible. It’s time to take a stand – and take action before it is too late. You can start by participating in The Constantia Village’s anti-plastic eco-campaign. Simply drop off your plastic waste at the drop-off points throughout the shopping centre from 14 September – 12 October and we will do the rest. For every 54 kg of plastic we collect, we will donate a New Life Plastics bench to an underprivileged school or home for senior citizens. We’ll also be giving customers who spend R300 or more at the centre between 1-12 October 2018 a gift-with-purchase eco shopping bag, which you can use and re-use, and thereby reduce your consumption of plastic bags.
PLASTIC: THE HARSH TRUTH
Since its invention in 1907, plastic has become an integral part of our lives. But the seemingly unstoppable growth of plastic production, especially single-use plastics such as straws, has resulted in pollution of epidemic proportions. This pollution is now threatening human and animal life as never before with plastic being recognised as one of the greatest risks to our environment and wellbeing.
Not only is the earth’s surface being buried under a layer of non-biodegradable waste, our oceans and soils are being saturated with tiny plastic particles, writes Robert J. Traydon on News24.com. “While plastic debris is finding its way into the stomachs of innumerable species with lethal consequences, plastic particles are working their way into the food chain and placing many of mankind’s food sources and their respective ecosystems at risk of contamination and collapse.”
Since its invention in 1907, plastic has changed the way ordinary people live their lives. It is widely used throughout the world and has made life easier and more convenient. This is not a problem, per se. The problem lies in the explosive growth in its production – and the crucial fact that it is highly durable and does not biodegrade. It does not decompose, so when it enters the environment as mismanaged waste it is broken down into smaller particles called microplastics and nanoplastics. “It is these plastics that are being swept up by multiple levels of the food chain … towards the world’s apex consumer, humans,” Traydon writes.
Although the impact of plastic waste on human health is still being researched, initial indications are cause for concern: phthalates, used in plastic production, have been linked to asthma, breast cancer, obesity, behavioural issues and more.
THE IMPACT ON OUR OCEANS
Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It is the shocking and shameful floating debris of plastic measuring 1.6 million square km in size. Other so-called trash vortices can be found in other oceans. These swirling convergences make up about 40 percent of the world’s oceanic surfaces.
This has a direct and drastic effect on wildlife: thousands of seabirds, sea turtles, seals and other marine animals succumb each year after ingesting plastic or getting caught up in it. What’s more, plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050!
And while South Africa is not the worst nation when it comes to plastic ocean pollution, it is sobering to note that we are number 11 out of the top 20 nations polluting the world’s oceans with plastic – worse than India, worse than Algeria, worse than Turkey … it’s time to clean up our act.
THE IMPACT ON LAND
Urban, rural and wilderness areas are fighting a continuous battle to overcome the scourge of plastic, Traydon says. Forty percent of all plastic lands up in landfills, which release harmful chemicals into the surrounding soil, contaminating groundwater and other water sources and putting at risk the myriad species that depend on them. As in the sea, numerous land animals eat plastic, mistaking it for food, leading to their premature deaths.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Reduce your use of single-use plastics, including plastic bags, water bottles, straws, utensils and any items that are used once and then thrown away. Make use of our gift-with-purchase offer from 1-12 October whereby you will receive an eco shopping bag if you spend R300 or more at The Constantia Village.
T & C’s apply.
- Recycle, recycle, recycle. There is no excuse. Make sure you recycle any plastic that can be recycled. It helps to keep plastic out of the ocean and reduces the amount of “new” plastic in circulation.
- Avoid using products with microbeads. These tiny particles are found in face scrubs, toothpastes and body washes. They enter our oceans and rivers through our sewer systems. Check the ingredient labels of your products for polythelene and polypropylene.
- Take part in or organise a beach clean-up. The state of our beaches and rivers is shocking. Join an organised campaign, or collect plastic waste on your own whenever you’re at the seaside or waterway.
- Become an eco-warrior. Join or support the myriad organisations fighting the plastic pollution crisis. Many of them rely on donations to continue their work.
- Stay informed. Make sure you know what the issues are regarding plastic pollution and how to prevent or minimise it. And educate your children too.
- Support plastic-free products and businesses.
- Become part of the solution, not part of the problem. Start by supporting our eco campaign, running from 14 September – 12 October, and let’s see how many New Life Plastics benches we can donate. Look out for our many drop-off points throughout the centre.
SOURCES: NEWS24, OCEANIC SOCIETY (CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY) (WWW.BIOLOGICALDIVERSITY.ORG).