18 April 2018, Johannesburg – In the wake of Day Zero, plastic was a major concern for those donating water to the water stricken city of Cape Town. Plastics are a growing problem on the continent, putting the environment and oceans in crisis mode. We are seeing too much plastic ending up in landfills. 

Earth Day has become an opportunity for many corporations to greenwash around recycling efforts and continue churning out throwaway plastic. This Earth Day, Greenpeace is looking to shift the narrative around single-use plastics from one of individual responsibility towards corporations reducing their production of throwaway plastic packaging. 

Melanie Sember, a Greenpeace Africa volunteer in Durban said, “The nurdle (small, plastic pellets) spill in Durban Harbour in October last year really brought home plastic pollution awareness for a lot of Durbanites who were perhaps not previously aware.  As volunteers, we have begun seeing more and more plastic pollution with every cleanup. We are starting to understand the impact plastic is having on our environment, however the far reaching impact of these plastic pellets now littering our beaches in their 100s of 1000s is unknown. In truth nurdles wouldn’t be in our harbour if our local producers weren’t using them to make single-use plastic products, nor would we have food containers, plastic bottles and packaging littering our shorelines and beaches either. We are asking the retailers switch to biodegradable alternatives or to start offering us solutions away from using plastic as the only choice”. 

South African volunteers are petitioning local food retailers to abandon all single use plastics – the campaign thus far is reaching its target of 8000+ signatures. Greenpeace Africa’s Durban volunteers will be raising awareness through an activity on April 22, Earth Day, at the Ushaka beachfront to engage with the broader public on the issue. 

As part of the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, Greenpeace Africa is urging individuals in South Africa to contribute to an additional “Million Acts of Blue” — actions to push retailers, corporations, restaurants, and businesses to reduce their single-use plastics. It is going to take commitments both large and small to tackle the scale of the plastic pollution crisis in front of us, but it has to be done. 

Nhlanhla Sibisi, Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Africa said, “Plastic waste is changing the face of Africa. The fight against plastics cannot be a burden put on the public alone. We need to start putting pressure on corporations to rethink their role in how to alleviate and ultimately eliminate single-use plastic. There seems to be a public perception and expectation that the recycling industry will save the planet. Reactive clean-ups are not the solution, only once we have a clean up of the systemic reliance on plastic will we see the change we want to see.”

Notes: 

  • A recent study revealed that 91 percent of the world’s plastics have not been recycled. The equivalent of one truckload of plastic enters our oceans every minute.
  • Plastic pollution can choke or entangle marine life, including seabirds, turtles, and whales. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that ocean plastics are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of sea creatures each year.
  • The international #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement is comprised of more than 1,100 groups, including Greenpeace, pushing for corporations to reduce and eventually phase out single-use plastic production.

Media contact:

Ingakane@greenpeace.org; Greenpeace Africa Communications Officer: Climate and Energy; 082 614 2676