Call to ban single-use plastics in SA by 2020
Eco-activists urge political leaders to take up the cause
Eight environmental organisations have joined forces to call on political leaders in SA to help scrap single-use plastics.
The organisations are challenging the leaders of the country’s four main parties to lead the way in the campaign to introduce a ban by January 1 2020 on plastic carrier bags, small fruit and vegetable bags, plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery and earbuds.
Angelo Louw, digital mobilisation officer for Greenpeace Africa and one of the co-ordinators of the Vuma Earth project, said on Friday the aim was to build political pressure around the issue in the lead-up to the May 8 general election.
“We are calling on ANC leader and SA President Cyril Ramaphosa, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, EFF leader Julius Malema and IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi because their parties have the most clout to influence social discourse.
“Except for the IFP, their manifestos have been launched, but they can still include this issue as a priority and help convince their supporters to take it seriously.”
Vuma Earth would be issuing a parallel call to the department of environmental affairs to help turn political pressure into law, he said.
“We want to show them if they introduce legislation to scrap single-use plastics it will be supported by the people.
“We want South Africa to join the growing worldwide action on this issue by banning replaceable or unnecessary plastic products.”
Quoting a 2016 World Economic Forum study, Louw said plastic pollution was a crisis.
“The equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute and the way we’re going by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish.
“It is destroying the marine environment and human livelihoods and jobs in sectors like tourism and fisheries.
“It is infiltrating the human food chain and causing cancers and birth defects. Scientists have found plastic in tap water, salt and beer.”
South Africans used about eight-billion plastic shopping bags a year and since the failure of the bag levy introduced in 2003, SA was one of the worst culprits in terms of mismanagement of plastic waste, he said.
In contrast a number of countries around the world, including in Africa, had banned the use, manufacture, importation and distribution of disposable plastic bags.
Tim Douglas-Jones, longtime co-ordinator of clean-ups in the metro, said he agreed with the call to ban single-use plastics and the challenge being put to political leaders.
“One end of the problem is that so many goods on supermarket shelves are covered in single-use plastic and I feel the producers of this packaging are pussyfooting around in terms of implementing much-needed change,” he said.
“The other end of the scale is many of our environmental laws, like the one against littering, are not being implemented and the result is pollution which lands up on our beaches and in the ocean.
“Something must be done, and political leaders can guide policy and public opinion.”
Vuma Earth drew up a petition which was circulated through the eco-activist sector before being opened up to the public. By Friday lunch-time, 3,500 people had signed it.
The petition is accessible at https://www.vuma.earth/petitions/ban-throwaway-plastics