WWF SA & V&A Waterfront tackle single-use plastic problem

WWF South Africa and the V&A Waterfront have teamed up to encourage consumers and retailers to cut back on single-use plastics such as disposable cutlery, food packaging, coffee cups and lids.

During the month of October, all the bins in the food court area of the V&A Waterfront will be dressed to look like “post boxes” to highlight that when a single-use plastic item is thrown away, it is likely to travel much further than imagined and end up in the ocean or on a beach.

A similar activation at the Food Lovers’ Eatery recently showed a 10% reduction in plastic cutlery usage in the first week of the campaign, illustrating that consumer awareness is key to tackling the growing tide of single-use plastics, says WWF.

The V&A Waterfront has made an ambitious commitment to a plastic-free future. In December 2017 the V&A Waterfront became the first port in Africa to test the Waste shark – a remote-controlled marine drone that floats on the ocean surface swallowing up plastic in its way.

In July 2018, the V&A Waterfront’s commitment to eliminating single-use plastic was supported by public awareness campaigns and collaborative partnerships with tenants. Retailer Pick n Pay offered customers cardboard carry-boxes, and became the first retailer in the country to offer 100% biodegradable shopping bags, making the store completely plastic-free for a day on International Plastic Free Day.

A large whale skeleton artwork made from plastic also drew attention to the damage of plastic on marine life. Educational content was broadcast across electronic screens set up at the activation. The company understand that because there are about 16 000 people working at the V&A Waterfront every day, and a whopping 26-million visitors a year, it has the ability to raise awareness that can bring about meaningful change.

Importantly, the V&A Waterfront is actively engaging with tenants to find sustainable solutions. In addition to introducing incentives for tenants to adopt proper waste disposal and recycling methods, the V&A Waterfront also ensures the property keeps pace with global best practice in recycling and in terms of plastic bans. Over the past year, the V&A Waterfront recycled 2 500 tons of waste and collected and diverted over 6 300 tons of waste from landfill sites. Of this, 81 tons came from the waterways and the Maritime industry. Approximately 24% of all the recyclable waste has been plastic.

Pavitray Pillay, head of the WWF Southern African Sustainable Seafood Programme, says: “Plastic items such as straws, coffee cup lids, earbuds, individual sweet wrappers, plastic cutlery and stirrers are often used on average for 12 minutes before they are thrown away. The problem is they cause enormous damage to marine life and stay in the environment for hundreds of years. This is why we would like consumers to take ownership of what they send into the world and would like to encourage all of us to ‘rethink, refuse and reuse’ when it comes to single-use plastics.”

In light of the growing single-use plastic problem in South Africa, WWF South Africa has compiled the “Plastic Files” in collaboration with Dr. Philippa Notten of The Green House. The first in this informative series of four, it tackles the questions of where plastics come from, why they are so popular, what the problem is, the impact on wildlife, and what we can do to start tackling the issue.

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