Through their #PlasticFreeJuly, the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (Sassi) is making people aware that they might be consuming particles of plastic through their food and drink.
The #PlasticFreeJuly initiative is to also make people aware that plastics make up 75% of marine litter, said Pavitray Pillay, Sassi manager.
Pillay said dumping plastics in the oceans led to entanglement, ingestion and the altering of ocean habitats and had far-reaching consequences for marine life.
“Humans are not exempted from the effects of plastic pollution in our oceans,” she said.
Pillay said the challenge was to establish efficient ways of recycling, renewing and re-inventing plastic waste.
She said most marine litter was plastic packaging - single-use items that were disposed of inappropriately, such as plastic shopping bags, plastic coffee cup lids, drinking straws, plastic water bottles, earbuds, plastic lollipop sticks, sports drink bottle lids, sweet wrappers and expanded polystyrene food packaging.
According to the Sassi Facebook page, plastics break down in the environment and become micro-plastics (tiny bits of plastic) that move into our waters.
Professor Rajen Naidoo, of the College of Health Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said plastics ingested by fish were absorbed into the fish and then transferred into human bodies.
Naidoo said the effects of plastic particles in humans largely depended on the type of particles consumed.
“Some particles of plastic could be made from compounds that can cause changes in certain sex hormones,” Naidoo said.
Pick 'n Pay and Sassi have created a new reusable bag to help conserve the oceans. Some supermarkets have done away with the use of plastics and introduced compostable carrier bags. Some restaurants have even stopped supplying straws.