Nature Seychelles is this month joining thousands of organisations, schools and individuals around the world in the ‘Plastic Free July’ campaign. The challenge simply requires those taking part to refuse single-use plastic items during the month of July; either for a day, a few days, weeks or the entire month. The challenge is the initiative of Plastic Free July, an Australian based not-for-profit organisation that was formed in 2011.
Ironically, in the early part of the 20th century, plastic was developed with conservation in mind; to replace ivory, tortoiseshell, horn and other plant and animal based products. But now this novel idea has turned toxic.
According to Scientific American, 2 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced thus far. Globally, one million plastic bags are used every week. Worrying figures because every piece of plastic that has ever been produced still exists somewhere on earth. It is estimated that in the next thirty years, the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans will be more than the fish.
Nature Seychelles' CEO (L), Dr Nirmal Shah shopping shortly after the launch of the eco-bags in 2008
Plastics are harmful not only to marine and land ecosystems, but also to human health. The UN and World Health Organisation in 2013 reported the effects of plastic on human health as a global threat. Reports of wildlife dying from ingesting or getting entangled in plastic is no longer news, it is disturbingly, the norm; you only have to log on to social media to be confronted by images of dead turtles, birds, whales and other wildlife.
Our addiction to plastics from shopping bags, straws, water bottles, takeaway containers, grocery wrapped in plastic, and so forth seems to have no end. But organisations, individuals and governments are slowly making the shift. France recently banned the use of plastic bags, in San Fransisco the city unanimously voted to ban the use of polystyrene products and closer home, Rwanda has been plastic bag free since 2008!
“In 2008 we launched the eco-bags in partnership with STC Supermarket to try and reduce plastic pollution in the Seychelles. We were the first NGO to do so. These reusable bags were aimed at reducing the use of plastic shopping bags at this supermarket and other stores in the country.” says Dr. Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO. “After that we had textile bags with the Nature Seychelles and Cousin logos made and sold about a 1000 to the public and even to conference organisers. You can now see more and more organisations and individuals in Seychelles embracing such concepts, but more still needs to be done.”
Marine Debris Challenge on Cousin Island in April 2016
“It is encouraging to see youth-led groups such as SYAH-Seychelles pushing for a Seychelles free from plastic while at the same time addressing the existing marine pollution through their clean-up campaigns,” Shah adds. Nature Seychelles partnered SYAH-Seychelles recently in the Marine Debris Challenge, for a beach clean-up on Cousin Island Special Reserve which has plastic wash up on its beaches from all over the world.
It may seem like a tall order to try and live plastic free for a day let alone an entire month, but Lauren Singer, founder of ‘Trash is for Tossers’ has in the last four years produced a total amount of waste that fits into a 450 gram jar by avoiding plastic packaging, one-use plastic items and committing to a zero-waste lifestyle.
By turning to other alternatives for cleaning, cooking, food storage, gardening, gifts, meals, personal care products and shopping, it is possible to significantly reduce the plastics and microplastics that eventually end up in landfills and in the sea.
Progress, not perfection. Our alternative to one-use styrofoam takeout lunch containers and plastic bags
At Nature Seychelles we started with our take-out lunch containers a few weeks ago. Rather than opt for the one-use styrofoam containers, we bought re-usable containers of as near as possible in dimension to buy our daily lunches in. Although not perfect as the containers are still plastic, we have reduced the number of styrofoam containers ending up in the landfill each week by at least 15 each week which is at least 700 each year.