Considering the millions of tonnes of plastic and other discarded material that go from the land into the sea every year, it’s no wonder that there is no place in the ocean that is free of it. We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it, because they do.
This is according to world-renowned oceanographer and explorer, Dr Sylvia Earle who was brought to South Africa by Polyco to deliver the keynote address at the recently held inaugural African Marine Waste Conference.
Polyco Chief Executive Officer, Mandy Naudé, says: “The Conference, and Dr Earle’s presence at it, were critical given that Africa is the world’s second most polluted continent on the planet* and that waste accumulation is accelerating due to Africa’s rapidly rising population and urbanisation rates. The United Nations predicts that the continent’s population will double to 2.4 billion by 2050, with 60% living in urban coastal areas. The accumulation of waste on land, coupled with poorly managed landfill sites, has led to increasing amounts of leakage into rivers, estuaries and seas, with major impacts on marine life, the environment and climate change, not to mention human health. With Polyco being committed to reducing the amount of polyolefin waste going to landfill and increasing the recycling rate of polyolefin plastics, we felt it was crucial to have Dr Earle at the Conference to share her expertise, spanning almost 60 years, on tackling the challenges of waste in the world’s waters and provide input on a pan-African strategy for dealing with marine waste.”
“In South Africa, only 177,000 out of 540,000 tonnes of polyolefin plastic waste were recycled last year. As the majority of our landfills are close to capacity and only 5% of the population are actively recycling, the country and its surrounding oceans are in crisis,” adds Naudé.
At the Conference, Dr Earle shared: “When people ask: Why should I care about the ocean? I answer, because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth’s life support system. It shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. It’s the blue heart of the planet — we should take care of our heart. It’s what makes life possible for us. We still have a really good chance to make things better than they are. They won’t get better unless we take action and inspire others to do the same. No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something. There is plenty of reason for hope. This is the best time ever for change.”
“We fully agree with Dr Earle and hope to change mindsets and behaviours around recycling by creating an understanding of the value of used packaging in South Africa. We believe that through this, we can impact positively on responsible consumer behaviour to prevent land-based littering, and in this way help to save our seas,” concludes Naudé.
The Polyolefin Recycling Company NPC (Polyco) is a not-for-profit industry body established by the polyolefin packaging producers in 2011, with the purpose of reducing the amount of polyolefin waste going to landfill. By increasing the sustainable collection, recycling, recovery and beneficiation of polyolefin plastics, we are focused on making waste work for the South African economy.
Polyco aims to create a society where litter in minimised and the value of waste is maximised. Our activities include, amongst others: project support investment for collectors and recyclers, packaging clean-up campaigns, end use recycling support projects and consumer education and awareness campaigns.
Polyco+ is a movement designed to change mindsets and behaviours around recycling. It was launched to broaden Polyco’s capacity in addressing the national crisis of only 5% of the population recycling, impacts of which include slowed economic development, the withholding of employment opportunities from thousands and unsightly and harmful plastics filling the natural environment – both marine and land-based.
The Polyco+ platform enables Polyco to continue working with municipalities and industry sectors, join forces with like-minded industry partners and engage with consumers to collaboratively find and implement solutions to the crisis that affects us all. Ultimately, Polyco+ aims to create a society where litter is minimised and the value of waste is maximised through recycling.