Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘plastic bags’

Plastic bags – my, how things have gone wrong

In Eish!, Politics, Science, Scoundrels on August 3, 2012 at 8:43 am

Carrybagus plasticus – the South African national flower. Image: Abrie Fourie

A wry smile etched itself all over my face when I read an article in Wednesday’s Guardian about about the call in the UK for a levy on single-use plastic bags – the cheap and nasty bags designed to carry little more than a box of cigarettes and a Mars bar before breaking.

I smiled because in South Africa we’ve been down this road, and what was promised at the end of it was certainly now what we found.

In 2002, regulations under section 24 (d) of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1989 banned the manufacture, trade and commercial distribution of plastic bags with a wall thickness of less than 80 micrometres. What followed was a series of regulations that ensured that a major cost would be drawn from the purse of the consumer. There were to be no more free plastic bags at the till. Instead, people would have to pay for thicker bags.

The reason behind it was supposed to be two-fold: Read the rest of this entry »

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When sustainability is literally in your hands

In Eish!, Science, Scoundrels on July 27, 2012 at 9:36 am

Sometimes we create the sting

I would hazard a guess most people watching the Olympics don’t see it the way I do – as both an environmental nightmare and an opportunity.

Wherever people get together in large numbers, there’s inevitably an unholy mess, and this year’s Olympics is no exception. But it can also provide those hoping to develop in consumers a mindset of sustainability a chance to capitalise on an event that has the world’s attention.

I have a problem with people who litter; I find them offensive and nauseating. But ‘littering’ has a sliding scale. There are those who throw stuff out of moving cars or who wilfully toss cans and wrappers¬†on to the street whilst standing within walking distance of rubbish bins. They are the worst. They are purposeful litterers. They have no interest in contributing to a sustainably society. Evolution will take care of them.

But then there are those who don’t wilfully litter but who contribute to littering by over-consumption. They’ll take 3 or 4 sachets of tomato ketchup from a take-away food stall, when only 1 or 2 will do, then eventually throw the others away. They will collect flyers and other handouts given to them – because they see them as free – only to throw them away soon afterwards. They are unaware that their ‘enthusiastic’ consumption is contributing to landfill sites. In my opinion, they are littering.

Now, bearing in mind the money tied up in sponsoring rights, imagine the pure volume of promotional paraphernalia distributed at this year’s Olympic Games, that will be taken, casually examined and then discarded? Did the organisers think of that?

In their bid for the games, the British Olympic Organisation promoted the term ‘sustainability‘, as they should have done – but only if they were serious about it. It seems they have done quite a bit to ensure that the environmental impact of hundreds of thousands of people converging on one of the world’s biggest cities is minimised.

However, if an opportunity is to be embraced to encourage the concept of sustainability amongst consumers of the games, it needs to be brought closer to them.

Greener Upon Thames, a not-for-profit environmental organisation, has been pushing for a plastic bag-free games. That won’t happen in these games; but perhaps the best we can hope for is that people¬†attending the games are encouraged not to mindlessly grab the promotional bags of goodies that are expected to be thrust in their direction.

Whether or not the games are sustainable is, to a degree, literally in their hands.