Shop green this festive season

An ethical dilemma is the last thing one expects to be confronted by when running a quick errand, but being asked whether to purchase a plastic bag at the checkout till of a local supermarket does just that.

And so it should: South Africa is in the top 15 countries worldwide that mismanage plastic waste in 2010, according to a report by the BBC.

The supermarket cashier had her own shocking statistics on plastic pollution in our oceans, and a quick Google search brings up hundreds more, including a report by The Independent that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our seas.

Our decision to purchase plastic is now more relevant than ever, with the agreement made by countries at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi recently that the world needs to stop plastics from entering the oceans. No reduction targets were agreed upon with the refusal to do so from the United States and some other countries such as China and India. However, an international task force will be established. And the sooner, the better.

The UN oceans chief, Lisa Svensson, told the BBC ahead of the summit that plastic waste put life in the seas at risk of irreparable damage, calling it a ‘planetary crisis’.

On land, the United Nations’ Environment Programme found as many as 20 plastic bags have been pulled out of a single cow at an abattoir in Nairobi. This is according to another BBC report in August that came as the Kenyan government banned plastic carrier bags in a bid to help protect the environment.

While job loss concerns were raised, the high court ruled that protecting the environment was more important than commercial interests.

Introducing a tax on plastic bags is another route, as South Africa has taken, to nudge us to either refrain from buying them or at least to re-use them.

Countries’ acknowledgement of the importance of the environment sends a powerful message, but really, we consumers shouldn’t wait for policies to be implemented before we make a change – especially now in the height of shopping season.

Greenpeace’s Tisha Brown said it best to the BBC: “We need manufacturers to take responsibility for their products – and we need to look at our consumption patterns that are driving all this.”

 

Talk to us by emailing our group editor at [email protected]

  AUTHOR
Daniella Potter
Group Editor

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