South Africa ranks in top 20 trash per capita producers worldwide

Since the nurdle shipping disaster struck the KwaZulu-Natal coastline in October 2017, many South Africans have worked round the clock to clean our beaches getting them ready for the lucrative festive season.

Petco-nurdles
Nurdles washed up on a beach

Experts compared the nurdle crisis to an oil spill, such was the danger facing our local wildlife and tourism industry, which has now overtaken mining as the biggest growing employment sector.

While citizens are not responsible for the nurdle disaster, it’s hard to ignore the fact that supply meets demand, and it plays a role in how South Africa and the globe intends to deal with the plastic oceanic catastrophe we will face if action is not taken swiftly.

In fact, at the recent Environmental Summit in held earlier this year in Nairobi, the banning of plastic waste polluting our oceans was a prioritised topic of discussion. Kenya announced the most stringent set of laws against plastic waste, those selling or producing illegal plastic of any nature could face fines as high as half a million Rand over a four-year period.

South Africa in general is not renowned for its culture of recycling, according to a report by the World Bank, South Africa produces 54,425 tonnes of rubbish every day – the 15th highest rate in the world. USA and China are at the top of list.

South Africa is not without the means to contribute to controlling the number of plastic bottles used in the average household. Saskia Koter, marketing manager of Sodastream South Africa says, ‘One of the company’s strongest messages is on environmental sustainability. In fact, SodaStream makes most its products from 100 per cent recyclable materials, meaning the company as an entity contributes to a circular economy that limits waste while keeping profitability in motion.’

South Africans are pulling together to get into the habit of leading a low carbon footprint lifestyle, much of it aided by the dedicated waste pickers roaming the streets with large bundles of plastic bottles being dragged behind them. The effort is paying off, the country’s recycling rate went up from 52 per cent in 2015 to 55 per cent in 2016, with 2017 figures still to be revealed.

Koter adds, ‘It’s positive news that our recycling efforts are improving but the biggest change can come from the consumer. One Sodastream bottle can save each family over 2000 bottles per year. South Africans must remember that nearly 250 thousand plastic products are thrown away per hour, which equates to six million plastic items a day. This lends credence to the fact that plastic makes up nearly 50 per cent of all materials filling dumpsites that will take over 450 years to decompose.’