With all the firefighting, both literally in Australia and figuratively elsewhere in the world today, readers may have missed a game-changing announcement last week in the environmental fight to protect this planet and halt global warming.

China, one of the world’s largest users of plastic, unveiled a plan to reduce single-use plastics. Non-degradable bags will be banned in major cities by the end of 2020 and in all cities and towns by 2022. Restaurants must stop using plastic straws by the end of 2020 and reduce the use of single-use plastic items by 30%.

This is big news and begs the question of why South Africa, which touts its natural beauty as a key tourism drawcard, hasn’t done the same thing. The government only announced in July 2019 that it would start a review of the policy on single-use plastics.

A recent study by the University of Cape Town shows that there are 10 common problem plastics found along South Africa’s coastline. In order of prevalence, they are:

Shopping bags, coffee cups and coffee cup lids, straws, water bottles, earbuds, lollipop sticks, drinking spouts on sports drinks, individual sweet wrappers, fragments of cups, and takeaway food packaging containers and food trays made from polystyrene.

Closer to home in the Overberg where beaches are an integral part of our economy and quality of life, we must ask ourselves what more we can do while the South African government plays catch-up on the policy front.

Already a number of restaurants, shops, takeaways and supermarkets have taken positive and commendable steps to use only degradable straws and takeaway containers, to put groceries in paper bags and to forego coffee cup lids.

With local suppliers already selling biodegradable packaging, there is every incentive for companies to make the switch. Every bit helps.

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