This past week (12-17 September 2016) marked Clean-up & Recycle SA week, the aim of the week is to increase awareness in South Africans of the many benefits of recycling (socially, environmentally and economically) and the importance of a litter-free environment.
This year, we celebrated the twentieth year of South Africa’s active participation in the International Coastal Clean-Up Day (ICC) – an annual event that sees thousands of volunteers flock to beaches around the world to pick up and remove litter from beaches and the marine environment.
As part of International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday 17th of September, PETCO partnered with Plastics|SA and 140 enthusiastic volunteers to clean up Robben Island in memory of Nelson Mandela.
Cleaning up the island
Despite the nasty weather conditions that were forecast for that day, many highly motivated and cheerful trash collectors, across all age groups, showed up, fully prepared for the adverse weather conditions with waterproof jackets firmly in hand. We then spent two hours picking up all waste items that could be found.
Plastics were by far the most prevalent litter source on the beach, along with bottle caps, food packets, cigarette butts, a few lighters etc. Small plastics (micro-debris) were also present, which are often overlooked and hard to pick up because of their size.
Once the beaches were clean and all waste had been picked up, a truck circled the island’s perimeter road, collecting more than 20 bright yellow bags full of rubbish for sorting and later recycling on the mainland.
80% of marine debris from land-based sources
It is been estimated that around 80% of marine debris is from land-based sources. Countless marine animals and sea birds become entangled in marine debris or ingest it. So what can we do about it?
Packaging is an essential part of modern life allowing people to consume fresh, uncontaminated food and beverages wherever they want in the quantities needed. As a nation, we are unfortunately undisciplined litterers which is a major cause for the negative perception South Africans have of packaging. If we can stop littering we will have made a major move towards cleaning up our country.
The best thing we can do to protect our oceans is to keep as much plastic as possible out of the waste stream in the first place.
Not enough recycling happening
It seems fairly obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it.
Did you know that PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) – an incredibly sophisticated plastic most commonly used to manufacture bottled-water and cool-drink packaging – is 100% recyclable?
And did you know that, after it’s been used, PET can be recycled into many new and useful products, including being turned back into bottles? It’s too valuable to be thrown in with the rubbish.
Recycling PET bottles in South Africa over the last decade has saved a total of 651 000 tonnes of carbon, avoided using 2.7 million m3 of landfill space and reduced resource consumption. Recycling plastic bottles decreases the need for raw materials and saves energy. Recycling a single tonne of plastic bottles saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon versus landfilling or incineration.
Support drop-off sites
When recyclable materials, like PET, are sent to landfill, they become completely useless. Keep them out of the waste stream by recycling them. Check for local NGOs, schools and shopping centres in your area that offer recycling.
Find a drop off site for PET and most other packaging recyclables here.
Put pressure on your manufacturers
If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or choose to support a more sustainable competitor.
Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover.
Thank you to all who rolled up their sleeves to take part at the Robben Island clean-up SA on the 17th of September 2016, and of course the other fantastic sponsors, partners and organisers – Plastics|SA, Pick n Pay, and Fine Music Radio.