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30/10/2018

The Nelson Mandela Bay metro is to spearhead an African drive to cut marine plastic pollution. The aim of the Norwayfunded project is that marine plastic pollution will be slashed to zero in the Bay within three years and the same will be achieved in Africa within 17 years.

The Nelson Mandela Bay metro is to spearhead an African drive to cut marine plastic pollution. The aim of the Norway-funded project is that marine plastic pollution will be slashed to zero in the Bay within three years and the same will be achieved in Africa within 17 years.

Young people will play a major role, using their networking power to slay the plastic pollution monster – 350kg of plastic entering the sea every second – which is scuttling ecosystems, fisheries, communities and economies.

Announcing these steps at a conference at Nelson Mandela University on Monday, Dr Tony Ribbink, founder of the Port Elizabeth-based Sustainable Seas Trust, said the challenge was huge.

“Globally we are pushing 350kg of plastic into the sea per second. That’s 20 tons a minute,” Ribbink said.

“At the moment, Africa is the second-worst polluter behind Asia, but it is on its way to becoming the worst.

“But by working together, we can turn this crisis around.”

The trust’s pan-African initiative would start in Nelson Mandela Bay with the metro and the university coming on board as key partners, he said.

“Satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles will be used for monitoring, water quality in rivers will be tested, and a new app will be developed.

“We are [also] working with the education department to introduce the issue of plastic pollution to the school curriculum, and an educational booklet is being written.”

The role of today’s youth was key, he said.

“What they do or do not do will change the planet forever.”

Healthy competition would be introduced to grow momentum further, he said.

“Homes, churches and organisations will compete.

“There will be festivals and clean-ups. The goal is zero marine plastic pollution in Nelson Mandela Bay by 2021 and in Africa by 2035.”

In a short speech, mayor Mongameli Bobani pledged the metro’s support for the project.

Norway’s backing is a major coup for the project and SA.

The Scandinavian country was the leading voice at the UN’s landmark commitment in June 2017 to zero plastic marine pollution.

Norwegian research and higher education minister Iselin Nybo said her government had committed itself to a grant of R45m, comprising R42m to NMU over four years and R2.8m to the trust.

She recounted the February 2017 incident in which a whale that had beached itself on the country’s western shore had to be put down because it was so sick, and was subsequently discovered to have 30 plastic bags in its gut.

“It was not a freak accident. It is predicted that if humankind carries on polluting the way we are doing, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.”

Nybo said Norway – which has a coastline of 21,000km, second only to Canada – was aiming to maximise its oceanbased economic potential.

Fundamental to achieving that aim and keeping alive the possibility for future discoveries, was to stop global marine pollution, she said.

“That is why we are standing with SA on this issue and are proud to participate in [it].”

SA tourism minister and acting minister of environmental affairs Derek Hanekom said while the country needed jobs, this need had to be addressed responsibly.

“With this plastic pollution we’re going to have to bite the bullet at some point.

“But, as with the migration from coal to renewable energy, the migration away from plastics can create new jobs and, in fact, result in a nett jobs gain.”

He said the plan to cut pollution from plastic supermarket bags, including a levy introduced 15 years ago, had clearly “got stuck” and the crux of the matter was the nominal fee charged for the bags.

“It should not be so easy to simply pay the few cents required to get a plastic bag. We need to reduce packaging.”

Picture: WERNER HILLS REUSE, RECYCLE: At the Africa Youth Waste Network launch were, back, from left, Sustainable Seas Trust founder Dr Tony Ribbink, Norwegian minister of research and higher education Iselin Nybo, and SA tourism and acting environmental affairs minister Derek Hanekom, with, front, Nelisa Ngabaza, 13, Anelisa Ngidana, 13, Owam Kuse, 12, and Lilitha Njokwana, 13

This article appeared in The Herald of 16 October 2018 written by Guy Rogers 
rogersg@tisoblackstar.co.za

 

To read more articles in the Herald, go to: https://www.heraldlive.co.za/

 

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