Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats facing the natural world, but with a few small changes, you can help stamp out plastic waste.
Here’s how to go plastic-free and keep our countryside pristine.
These days, plastic is simply everywhere. Not just where you expect it, like in kitchen cupboards and supermarket shelves, but literally everywhere. On secluded beaches and remote mountaintops. In hidden valleys and uninhabited forests. And especially in rivers, lakes and oceans.
According to the United Nations, there are now more microplastics in our seas than stars in our galaxy.
The main culprit is single-use plastic, which is used once before being tossed. A lot of these plastic products end up in the environment, where they choke and ensnare innocent animals. What’s the solution? Say no to disposable plastic goods. If you can’t re-use, refuse!
Here’s how you can fight the plastic pandemic.
Lose the plastic straw
Yes, we know it takes you back to your childhood when you drink cold drinks through a straw. But some things are best left in the past, single-use straws included. When you’re on your next visit to the great outdoors and feel the urge to sip on something chilled, be sure to choose a biodegradable straw. Look for straws made from eco-friendly materials such as bamboo or paper or get yourself a reusable straw made from stainless steel or glass and keep it in your bag.
Frightening fact: Every day 500 million straws are used – and thrown away – in America alone.
Ditch water bottles
It’s important to rehydrate, especially when you’re outside on a hot day or doing something strenuous like the Otter Hiking Trail, so we’re not saying you should toss all water bottles. Just disposable ones. Plastic beverage bottles are among the top three trash items collected from beaches (the others are cigarette butts and food wrappers). Get a re-usable, durable water bottle that you can refill as needed – the planet will thank you for it. For home use bamboo and glass are sustainable and stylish; for camping and hiking, stainless steel and aluminium may be better options. And re-usable plastic water bottles remain an option. Just check that the product is BPA-free, non-toxic and non-leaching.
Frightening fact: Every minute a million plastic bottles are sold worldwide.
Pack your own bag
That plastic bag you use to ferry your groceries home does duty for about 14 minutes, but it stays in the environment for more than 400 years. Plastic shopping bags are particularly dangerous when they end up in the ocean. Floating bags are mistaken for yummy jellyfish by marine animals who consume them. Rather replace single-use shopping bags with your own reusable bags. You can keep a few in the boot of your car, so they’re always handy when you go shopping. Even better is to get a lightweight heavy-duty bag that rolls up, which you can keep in your purse or on your keychain.
Frightening fact: Every year South Africans use around eight billion plastic shopping bags.
Pick it up
There is nothing more dispiriting than arriving in a beautiful place and finding a chocolate wrapper or empty plastic cup. But when you remove that bit of rubbish, you instantly transform the setting from spoiled to sensational. More importantly, you prevent that trash from being picked up by animals, which may mistake it for food. Not your plastic, not your problem? Plastic pollution affects all of us and with fish consuming the microplastics in the ocean, this problem may soon end up on your plate.
Frightening fact: Every year 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean. If this trend continues, it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.
If you love nature, you’ll love the Wild Card. Members get a year’s unlimited access to more than 80 national parks and nature reserves in South Africa and Swaziland. Visit the Kruger National Park, Drakensberg, Garden Route, Table Mountain and other iconic destinations without having to pay for entry every time. What are you waiting for? Go wild.