DEA commemorates International Coastal Clean-Up Day with a focus on Plastic Marine Pollution

16 September 2016


South Africa, under the leadership of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), will tomorrow, Saturday, 17 September 2016, join the global community in observing the International Coastal Clean-up Day (ICCD) 2016. Annually, on the third Saturday of September, volunteers around the world take part in the world’s biggest coastal clean-up event.

The information generated during the various coastal clean-up initiatives taking place around the country, will assist the relevant departments and municipalities in identifying the kinds of litter found on the coastline and how they can better manage its sources on land. This emphasises the importance of efficient waste management systems.

As South Africa seeks to rapidly grow its ocean economy, through Operation Phakisa, it has also become critical to strengthen management efforts, to control negative human impacts on our ocean resources. One of these human impacts, is plastic marine pollution. Studies published in the Science Journal, in 2015, show that the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean from terrestrial sources land, exceed 4.8 million tons (Mt) on an annual basis.  With growing populations and plastic use, the amount of plastic materials entering the ocean is increasing.  Once in the ocean they do not biodegrade, but simply fragment into smaller bits.

Plastic marine litter is not only unsightly, thus impacting on tourism, but can also have a devastating impact on marine life through entanglement and ingestion. It has the potential to spread throughout the food web as marine animals consume each other. Research also shows that the presence of plastics can affect both the number and type of marine organisms that inhabit a particular area. Plastics are also capable of absorbing and accumulating poison present in the water, which can be transferred to living organisms once ingested.

Given the challenges, there is an absolute need to raise awareness of both the impacts of marine litter on ocean health as well as the potential revenue recyclables can generate.  Last year, South Africa showed a 3% increase in mechanically recycled plastics (that is 292 917 tons of plastic was recycled) meaning that 20.8% of all plastic waste was diverted from landfill. Over the last five years the compounded growth in plastic recycling was 5.5 % per annum. There is huge potential in the green and recycling economy.

Consumers and households play an important role in the generation of waste from the products they consume. As end users people need to reduce, re-use and recycle waste wherever feasible, and dispose of this waste responsibly. South Africans should be aware of the environmental impact of the products that they buy, and pass on a sense of environmental responsibility to their families and communities.

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