The audited results of this year’s International Coastal Clean-Up Day, which took place on 17 September 2011, show that plastic litter continues to be a problem on South Africa’s beaches.
“Plastics don’t litter, people do”, says John Kieser of Plastics|SA who annually coordinates the South African volunteer initiative in partnership with Coastal Conservancy, in an effort to rid the country’s beaches and waterways of litter.
“The South African public needs to become more aware of the role they play in littering and that plastic litter needs to be recycled, not strewn on our beaches”.
Over the past 26 years, the annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) has become the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health. This year saw 21 763 volunteers collect a staggering 44 738 km of debris from our country’s beaches, covering a distance of 488 km. Underwater clean ups also took place with the help of 154 divers in the Western Cape who had volunteered their time to clean 1 687 kg of debris from the ocean’s floor.
Refuse for reuse
22 % of all the refuse collected from beaches in the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape Provinces were plastic bottle caps (total of 11 202). These caps are made from polypropylene (polymer identification code number 5) which is readily recycled into plastic garden furniture, for example. 7 365 straws or plastic sticks were collected (15 %), followed by 7 203 plastic beverage bottles (14 %), made from PET (polymer identification code 1). 19 of these PET bottles are recycled and used to make 1 fibre pillow.
“Plastic makes our lives easier, protects our food and is used to save our lives. Plastic bags, food wrappers, bottles and caps are too valuable to end up in a landfill, because they get recycled into a wide variety of products – ranging from gum boots and irrigation pipes, to fibre duvets and pillows, plastic sheeting and photo frames”, explains Anton Hanekom, Executive Director of Plastics SA says, adding that South Africa has a vibrant and growing plastics recycling industry, providing jobs to more than 40 000 people each year who are dependent on plastic that can be recycled.
Plastics SA goes global
Adding motivation to this year’s International Coastal Clean-Up activities, was the fact that Plastics SA recently became a signatory of the Global Declaration for Solutions on Marine Litter after attending the 5th Marine Debris Conference held in Honolulu, Hawaii, earlier this year.
“No matter where we live, we’re all connected to the ocean and litter on the beaches is everybody’s problem. Even litter that falls from our hands hundreds of kilometers away, eventually finds its way to the ocean. However, we believe that turning the tide on litter is one of the easiest ways to help protect the ocean, and Plastics|SA is now part of an international community of leaders committed to finding solutions to marine and coastal litter through global cooperation and future partnerships”.