Last Saturday (June 30), 58 people joined the our beach clean-up at Blue Lagoon in Durban, in tribute to World Environment and World Oceans Day and in support of the Uzwelo Bags’ “Say NO to plastic” campaign.
Kirsty Fonzari, marketing manager of Expand a Sign, said that the event was extremely successful. The teams collected a truck load of rubbish. “What we were really shocked at was the amount of polystyrene on the beach that we picked up along with glass and plastic bottles.”
She said that the beach clean-up aimed to remind Durbanites that 160 000 plastic bags are used globally every second, and that the five trillion plastic bags produced yearly could, side by side, encircle the world seven times!
The Expand a Sign team had been joined by, among others, 15 people from InterCement in the clean-up operation.
Fonzari said that this beach clean-up could not be a once off event and that all Durbanites needed to realise that the problem was just too big to tackle on just one day of the year.
She said that her own research across the internet had revealed some shocking statistics – for example, the proliferation of plastic products over the past 70 years has been such that nearly 300 million tons of plastic is produced yearly. At least half of this is only used just once before being dumped in our oceans.
“As we all know, plastic is cheap and we use it for a plethora of things each and every day without so much as a single thought. We’ve developed a disposable lifestyle. It is far easier to purchase a cheap bag at the till than to take the trouble and a few extra moments before rushing out the door in the morning to bring your own,” she points out.
Uzwelo Bags, a brand born out of Expand a Sign’s need to re-cycle waste fabric from within the textile printing industry, makes the very bags that could be used instead of the plastic bags known as “plastic flowers” that we often see on fences or bushes as we drive along out roads.
“We use our waste fabric that normally goes into landfills to make functional, stylish and affordable bags of all shapes and sizes. Uzwelo isn’t just about creating stylish and functional bags from fabric that was once destined for landfills. Our brand’s foundation is built upon three core pillars – environment, skills development, and conservation,” she added.
Fonzari said it was time to not only highlight the damage done to the precious marine environment by plastics but to draw attention to the scourge of polystyrene – another packaging product that is conveniently used to protect big ticket items during transportation but carelessly discarded with little thought for the consequences.
Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), commonly known as polystyrene or Styrofoam, is light and floats. When carelessly discarded, it finds its way into streets and storm water systems and makes its way into the sea. Like other plastics, EPS degrades and breaks down into small pieces which are mistaken by marine animals for food with lethal consequences.
Fonzari noted that Expand a Sign and Uzwelo Bags would continue its war against marine waste. Around 90 percent of floating marine debris is plastic and, although picking up a few plastic bags may seem a drop in the ocean, it would be meaningful if everyone made cleaning up our beaches a way of life every time they stepped on the beach to enjoy some leisure time.
“We’re dedicated to not talking about our values, but to living them. Every one of us has a valuable contribution to make, which inspires us to give more of ourselves. It’s about achieving as a team and striving to put passion into process,” she said.