Many countries and regions have implemented environmental protection laws and waste management regulations to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. Heartbreaking images of animals entangled in plastic rings, packets and nets have been shared far and wide on the internet.
People are beginning to take cognisance of their personal impact on the environment. Whether or not plastic pollution deserves more attention than climate change and overfishing, it is the one threat that every individual can directly combat.
Everyone can make the conscious decision to reduce their waste output, recycle more and prevent litter. Most importantly, people living in seaside cities and towns can play a major role as their waste is more likely to end up in the ocean. They are also the citizens who can participate in regular beach clean-ups and help sea creatures that are in need.
Technology can help, but it’s not the only solution
The reason why plastic pollution in our oceans gets so much attention and media coverage is because there is a technological fix. New gadgets such as floating waste-skimming devices and water filters can be used to scoop up plastic in the water.
While technology and large-scale devices can certainly help reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans, we shouldn’t rely on them as the final solution. Every citizen has a responsibility to reduce their waste output and simple decisions can go a long way.
For example, refusing straws at restaurants, opting for paper bags instead of plastic ones at grocery stores or purchasing reusable coffee cups and water bottles; these are small decisions that can drastically reduce one’s impact on the environment.
The population not only need to use less plastic, but it also needs to produce less. With less unnecessary plastic in circulation (such as wasteful food packaging), there will be less to throw away. This is a difficult solution to attain but it is the best way to stop plastic pollution. It requires a change in behaviour and mindset amongst individuals, government and industries.
Local acts inspire global change
Beach clean-ups are popular events in cities such as Cape Town and Durban. It brings the community together for a great cause and encourages citizens to do their part to help the environment. These seaside communities play a vital role in eradicating ocean pollution.
Besides enabling community interaction and participation, beach clean-ups also foster networking. These networks bring together individuals, businesses, organisations and charities and encourage them to engage with one another in the future.
The people participating have shared interests – the wellbeing of the environment and the reduction of waste – and will often devise ways to encourage others to do their bit too. Shop owners may start deposit schemes for empty glass bottles, retailers may invest in recycling vending machines, restaurant owners may decide to stop providing plastic straws.
Very often, individuals effect change within their businesses and the government as a direct result of these sorts of community events. They encourage the local government to install more recycling bins and enforce stricter penalties for littering. These local acts can inspire national (and even international) change.
While coastal communities can play their part in tackling ocean pollution and cleaning up the beaches, it is ultimately the responsibility of every citizen to do their best and dispose of their waste in the best way possible. Government policies can guide industries and advance the development of recyclable or biodegradable materials, but it will still be up to individuals to dispose of their own waste responsibly.
Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment.
By pairing international expertise with local insights, we have secured our position as one of South Africa’s most respected providers of waste management and industrial cleaning services. We also operate in the recycling, pipe inspection, CCTV, infrastructure inspection, hydro-demolition, high-pressure water jetting and catalyst handling industries.
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