Over 30 local celebrities and influencers agreed to give up plastic bags for the month of July. This movement was part of the ‘Rethink the Bag’ campaign organised by the Two Oceans Aquarium.
The aim of the campaign is to educate people about the hazards of single-use plastic grocery bags for the environment and its wildlife. The campaign has been running since 2011 but was re-launched in July 2018 to revive the sentiment.
With so many supermarkets, private companies and the government declaring war on plastic waste, July was the right time to boost the campaign once again. The re-launch event at the aquarium was attended by local celebrities such as Jack Parow and Roxy Louw.
Other celebrities and social media influencers adding their names to the pledge include Siba Mtongana, Nik Rabinowitz, Zolani Mahola, Eusebius McKaiser, Phemelo Motene, Susana Kennedy, Ndumiso Lindi, Francois van Coke, Ard Matthews, Faine Pearl, Siv Ngesi and more.
Plastic bags becoming a hot topic
“Last year was a bit of a tipping point for this conversation about single-use plastic in general worldwide and this year it’s just exploded, which is so exciting,” says Hayley McLennan, Rethink the Bag founder and environmental campaigner at the Two Oceans Aquarium. McLennan is working with the V&A Waterfront to encourage shops to give up plastic bags as well.
South Africa uses about eight billion plastic bags a year – putting them among the top 10 litter items found on beaches around the world during beach cleanups. “This is said to be now the greatest environmental crisis we face currently,” says McLennan.
“Basically, if we don’t do something about the way we’re behaving with single-use plastic, the scientists tell us that by the year 2050 there’ll be more plastic in the ocean than fish, which is just incomprehensible – it’s wrong on so many levels,” she states. The campaign has already persuaded many companies, including SPAR Eastern Cape, to phase out plastic bags.
Ordinary South Africans can make a difference
Phasing out plastic bags is not impossible but it will take a few years. According Aaniyah Omardien, the founder of The Beach Co-op NPO, explains three ways that ordinary South Africans can make a difference.
Firstly, we can put pressure on retailers to reduce their plastic packaging and supply of plastic bags. Secondly, we can reduce our own consumption and make an effort to recycle more waste from the home. Lastly, we can participate in beach cleanups to remove plastic litter from our shores.
“We’re spreading the message for people to try and reduce the amount of single-use plastic that they use – and in this case, the shopping bag in particular,” says Omardien. “It stays in the system for more than 400 years, and we only use it for 12 to 14 minutes,” she argues.
The quickest solution is for individuals to opt for paper bags or to carry their own material shopping bags when they visit supermarkets. You can add your name to the Rethink the Bag pledge and join the growing list of South Africans who are willing to make a difference.
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