Plastic Marine Pollution in South Africa
By Lauren Hankel and Melissa Burgess, CSIR
8 October 2018 – 12 October 2018 marks the date of the 2018 commemoration of the National Marine Week. This year, the Department of Environmental Affairs decided on the theme of “Nature Knows No Waste”. The aim of this year’s National Marine Week is to create awareness around the ocean pollution problem and to attempt to reduce it, and also to promote recycling.
In 2010 South Africa ranked 11th on the list of the worst offenders regarding plastic pollution in the ocean .
According to WWF, over 80% of marine pollution originates from land-based sources . In South Africa, only 16% of plastic is recycled. The rest of the plastic ends up at landfill locations where they can end up in rivers (due to wind, littering, inproper waste management, overflowing landfills) and eventually end up in the ocean. Sadly 8 million metric tons of discarded plastic end up in the ocean .
Plastic can live in the ocean for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, marine animals can get entangled in floating plastics and many marine animals also tend tend to swallow plastics because they mistake it for food. Not only is plastic a threat to marine animals, but also humans who eat the marine animals.
As humans that care about the environment we should try to avoid buying unnecessary plastic items and rather find alternatives (e.g. plastic shopping bags, straws, takeaway food containers, disposable cutlery, plastic cups, plastic bottles) .
1 Department of Environmental Affairs. 2018. 2018 National Marine Week. Accessed 5 October 2018. Available from: <https://www.environment.gov.za/event/deptactivity/nationalmarine_week2018>
2 American Association for the Advancement of Science. 13 February 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean: figures and data. Accessed 5 October 2018. Available from: <http://science.sciencemag.org/content/347/6223/768/tab-figures-data>
3 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Global. N.D. Marine problems: pollution. Accessed 5 October 2018. Available from: <http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/oceans/problems/pollution/>
4 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa. 2 October 2018. WWF Plastic File #1: living in a plastic age. Accessed 5 October 2018. Available from: <http://www.wwf.org.za/?26021/plastic-file-01>
5 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa. 9 October 2018. WWF Plastic File #2: stop using single-use plastics. Accessed 5 October 2018. Available from: <http://www.wwf.org.za/?26062/plastic-file-02>