Summer is here! And with the frustrating fluctuating international travel restrictions, South Africans will undoubtedly be looking to travel locally. For many families, this means a trip to the coast. However, if we do not stop to consider the ecological impact of our summer holidays on our coastlines, we might not have clean beaches and clear water to look forward to as the years go by. Plastic packaging, inflatable toys, beach party remnants of strewn glass bottles and decorations, as well as an influx of fishing debris all take their toll on our coastline during the holiday season especially since more families are out exploring and snacking.
Whether you lend your time to a beach clean-up initiative while on holiday or take conscious steps to reduce your plastic footprint this holiday season, it is our duty to stay aware and make sure we are part of the solution, not the growing problem.
The Holiday Season’s Impact On Coastal Towns
South Africa boasts some of the most diverse and pristine coastal landscapes in the world. And every year, we see the populations in coastal towns rise by as much as 350%.
While larger cities attract the most tourists, smaller coastal towns have witnessed considerably larger percentage increases in their populations throughout December. Last year’s statistics, according to data analytics group Lightstone in collaboration with Tracker, saw Plettenburg Bay’s population density increase by 182%, Mossel bay coming in at a 152% increase, and the smaller towns of Stillbaai, Struisbaai and Southbroom all saw increases of over 310%.
While this has a positive impact on the local tourism economy, we have to ask ourselves: Just how much plastic are we leaving behind? According to a report commissioned by the WWF, South Africa is the 11th worst offender for plastic pollution, spilling 79,000 tonnes of land-based plastic into the ocean in 2015 alone. During the holidays, it is estimated that household waste rises by 25%, which includes added shopping bags, gift wrap and packaging, party decorations, plastic bottles, and more.
From these indications, we can see that the increased plastic waste percentages for our country’s coastal towns are imminent.
How Can I Help?
Every journey starts with a single step! This holiday season, do not underestimate the profound impact the small steps you take towards reducing your plastic footprint will have on the bigger picture.
- Create your own DIY decorations out of paper or other biodegradable materials.
- For parties and get-togethers, use recyclable dishes and utensils.
- Use reused or recyclable gift wrap to wrap your presents.
- Swap out paper Christmas cards with digital ones.
- Purchase holiday cooking and baking ingredients in bulk to reduce packaging.
- Opt for gift experiences, like restaurant gift cards, salon and spa vouchers, concerts, or adventure experiences.
- Consider meaningful homemade gifts, like candles, soaps, customised picture frames, etc.
- Thrift secondhand or vintage items.
- Make use of reusable drinking bottles.
- Be aware of leaving litter behind.
- Educate your family on the importance of keeping beaches clean.
- Keep an eye out for beach clean-up initiatives near your coastal destination.
- Donate and contribute towards organisations already protecting the oceans as a gift from your family.
With the global plastic pollution crisis trending upwards, we risk ever-worsening effects for our marine life, fragile ecosystems, and endangered species.
#SeaTheBiggerPicture with us this festive season – reuse, reduce, recycle!