This week, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, indicated that her department is looking into the possibility of reviewing legislation that will phase out plastic products which harm the environment.
Single-use plastic products such as straws have become a big problem not just in Cape Town and South Africa, but the world at large as the pollution caused by these products have impacted marine life negatively.
More than 50 species of fish are known to eat plastic, and approximately 700 marine species are exposed to it. Research conducted by the University of California in America shows the accumulated chemicals of plastic floating in the ocean mimics chemical cues used by fish, seabirds and sea turtles to find food.
Plastic degrades into small enough pieces to be consumed by fish and other marine animals, and eventually pass into the flesh of these animals. This means that we as humans are already consuming some of the plastic we have polluted the ocean with.
Just as plastic is harmful to animals, it is also harmful to humans. Some plastic is toxic and disrupts the hormones crucial for a healthy existence.
The Department of Environmental Affairs is committed to minimising plastic pollution, Molewa said. She added that if the country continues to manufacture these plastics products, the thickness will be increased to use the product for longer.
The Department also conducted a Plastic Material Study this year in collaboration with the South African Bureau of Standards, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications, the Department of Health and the National Treasury.
Microbeads found in cosmetics products such as face washes also pose a big problem as many marine animals confuse this with plankton. They will also be consulting with players in the cosmetic industry in a bid to phase microbeads out of products.