A new fun and educational programme was launched yesterday to remove plastic waste from Algoa Bay.
The Plastic Patrol will run from today until the end of the month, but programme initiators Ocean Messengers and Masifunde Learner Development are hoping it will become a Bay institution throughout the year.
Speaking to 10 excited Masifunde kids at the Algoa Bay Yacht Club prior to the first excursion, Ocean Messengers founder Rainer Schimpf, of marine adventure operator Expert-Tours, told them that by getting involved in the initiative “you may help to change the world”.
Plastic was a particularly serious pollutant because of how long it took to decompose and the way this happened, he said.
“A plastic bottle that you throw away takes 450 years to disintegrate and as it does it breaks into smaller and smaller beads which become almost invisible but are eaten by fish and other marine creatures.
“These plastic beads lodge in the flesh and the stomachs of the fish so when we eat the fish we eat our own plastic.”
Staying with “connections”, Schimpf explained how ocean currents circulated round the globe and a bottle tossed into Algoa Bay could return here after seven years – if it was not mistaken for food by a marine creature, or caught up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the vast expanse of plastic and other pollution that circulates 90m deep in the north Pacific.
“To help fix this mess we’ve caused we should be charging more for plastic bags in the supermarkets, which would make people take better care of them.
“But meanwhile we can all take care to recycle and re-use our plastic waste.
“We should also start to examine the labels of things like toothpaste where some brands contain polyethylene plastic, and try to avoid those brands,” he said.
Masifunde managing director Jonas Schumacher said his team used nature as a key tool for teaching. The Plastic Patrol pronets, gramme fitted perfectly with the goal of the organisation, to develop youngsters outside ordinary schooling “to give them the guts to be change- makers”.
After the brief talk, the kids boarded the Expert-Tours rubber duck for their hour-long excursion around the harbour and then out into the bay.
Equipped with long-handled they scooped up floating plastic which was later sorted for recyclables and readied for municipal waste collection.
The kids also saw a ray, dolphins and several jellyfish and learnt how to handle these creatures to avoid a sting.
The Plastic Patrol’s December programme will feature two excursions at 8.30am and 12.30pm every day from today until December 27.
Companies or individuals can fund a trip for Masifunde or other disadvantaged kids. The money will be used to cover the fuel costs. Donation details can be found at masifunde.org.
The organisers are also hoping the Plastic Patrol will be embraced by residents, companies and schools for team-building, and by visitors under the responsible tourism banner, allowing them to give back and offset carbon emissions related to their trip.
Anyone interested can contact 072 1420 420 or firstname.lastname@example.org