(Story ENG) Fighting plastic pollution

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(MindSpace Magazine, 2019) – The world is drowning in plastic pollution, with microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) being now found in everything from the water we drink to the food we eat. This is a crisis that isn’t just killing the planet. Human life, too, is impacted! 

A study by the Sky Ocean Rescue project in the UK found that 72% of crustaceans from six deep-sea trenches, the deepest parts of our oceans, have plastic in their guts.

Things aren’t looking better further up the food chain either. In March 2019, a baby turtle cared for by Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium died because of plastic ingestion. Just weeks before, a dead whale washed up in the Philippines with 40 kg of plastic in its stomach, followed by a dead sperm whale in Italy. The pregnant animal’s womb contained nearly 25kg of plastic along with her dead baby.

Humans and how we produce and consume what we use are to blame for this. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), South Africans use 30-50 kg of single-use plastic per person per year. Based on our population of 54 million, that is equivalent to the weight of 4 800 to 8 000 Boeing 747s per year – and that’s for South Africa alone.

Recycling of this plastic pollution is unfortunately not the entire solution. In South Africa, 10% of plastics are recycled into new products. Often these products are single-use disposable items such as plastic bags. This is below the global rate of 14-18%. The rest is incinerated (24%) or discarded in landfills and in nature (58-62%).

The reason so little plastic is recycled is not because we don’t have the recycling capacity, but mainly because the composition of many plastics makes them unrecyclable. 

NB: This article was commissioned in 2019 by John Brown Media on behalf of MindSpace Magazine (Old Mutual). If you are looking for a senior, reputable and deadline driven sustainability journalist with an eye for good content angles, please contact me!

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