Here's how littering threatens the health of our communities
Did you know? South Africans generate roughly 54,2 million tons of waste every year. On average, that means that each of the country’s 57 million citizens produces about 2,5 kilograms of waste per day – enough to fill an entire football field 10 metres deep, every day.
Sadly, 90% of this waste is plastic - littered, illegally dumped or discarded in landfills, before it leaks from stormwater systems into upstream rivers and, eventually end up in the ocean, where it poses a devastating and significant threat to freshwater, marine life and, the human food chain.
Littering poses a challenge in SA
While plastic creates employment and contributes 76 billion rand to our economy, plastic waste undermines the flood absorption and water storage capacity of our wetlands and threatens catchments, river systems, estuaries and oceans.
According to the State of Waste Report (SoWR) published by the Department of Environmental Affairs in 2017, the harmful impact of waste, and particularly plastic, on the marine environment is one of the reasons that littering has become a key focus of the department.
Statistics in the report estimated the quantity of South Africa’s mismanaged plastic waste at 630,000 tons – ranking the country 11th amongst the world’s 20 worst offenders of marine pollution in 2010.
Here’s what we can do about plastic pollution
Most of the plastic waste generated in South Africa is littered in our communities by the very people who live there.
While the Constitution guarantees the right of all South Africans to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being, it is up to us as South Africans to change our attitudes towards plastic pollution and clean up our communities.
As parents, it is our responsibility to remind our children not to litter and, just as it is our responsibility to take every opportunity to educate our fellow South Africans when we witness them dumping waste illegally and, ensure that they understand that they have a role to play in taking better care of our environment.
The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is calling on South African consumers to demand that retailers provide eco-friendly food packaging for fast food wrappers, opt for glass bottles of water over plastic and, choose reusable shopping bags instead of plastic carrier bags.
Visit www.environment.gov.za for more information.
This article first appeared on 947 : Here's how littering threatens the health of our communities
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