The Final Straw: solutions to plastic pollution

Turtles fall under the hundreds of thousands of endangered marine life.

It’s a well-known fact that marine life always gets the short straw when it comes to plastic pollution. Every year over 100,000 marine animals as well as one million seabirds die from ingesting plastic products. Conscious of this fact Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town launched a campaign urging South Africans to declare 2018 a straw-free year.

The aquarium only stocks decomposable, plastic-free straws in their kiosks as plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose. When it finds its way into the sea, it breaks into microplastics, making them consumable to marine animal.

“Most of the plastic that we see in the oceans comes from local authorities who do not have adequate and well-managed waste management systems and these are often in the developing countries,” said Hugh Tyrrell who manages Green Edge, an environmental communications consultancy.

500 million straws are used the worldwide every day.

Many South African businesses have opted to ban straws to aid this movement such as Bootlegger Coffee Company, Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, Pernod Ricard, and Algoa Bay Yacht Club in Port Elizabeth. Ocean Basket is one of them and even took it a step further by opting not to give customers a plastic carrier bag with their take away.

Customers have welcomed the ban and have lent their support to Ocean Basket’s aim to reduce plastic pollution and being more environmentally conscious.

Mc Donald’s in the UK and Ireland joined the no-straw movement by announcing their intention to use only paper straws from September 2018. Outlets in US, Norway and France are looking to do the same.

The franchise in Watford, UK.

Tyrrell said world bodies and foreign aid departments of developed countries want to offer support to initiate collection systems in developing countries so as to prevent plastic pollution going to into the ocean.

“The plastic might come out of rivers in India or South East Asia but they end up on the shores of Mauritius, even our shores as well,” said Tyrrell. “It’s a global issue which needs organizations like United Nations.”

Should more people take the initiative and join the movement, plastic pollution would be reduced and marine life protected. A pair of friends, Alex and Andrew, were inspired by the plastic-littered waters of Bali to create their organization 4Ocean that does sea and coastline cleanups.

Through selling bracelets made from recycled materials, they have managed to remove over 800,000 pounds of rubbish. 4Ocean has been active for two years in many countries and has a staff of 150 people globally.

Each 4Ocean bracelet purchase enables the removal of one pound of rubbish.