When South African conservationist and extreme adventurer Braam Malherbe and Wayne Robinson rowed 8 100km from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro in May last year Malherbe was shocked at the amount of plastic pollution they encountered.
“We were on the ocean for 92 gruelling days and for over 60 of those days we saw no life at all, not a fish, turtle, bird or whale. All we saw, occasionally, was plastic. When we finally did see an animal, it was dead. The turtle washed up against our little boat and when we cut it open it was full of plastic,” says Malherbe.
Malherbe has completed numerous world-first adventures, including running 4 200km across the length of the Great Wall of China and representing South Africa in the Scott/Amundsen Centenary race to the South Pole. He has been a conservation activist for over 45 years.
The conservationist has thrown his weight behind this year's Plastic Free July campaign, an international initiative aimed at mobilising citizens to say ‘no’ to single-use plastics and is on a mission to mobilise young and old to take up the change and “Do One Thing” (#DOTchallenge).
It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean, by weight, than fish, which poses a real-life threat to humans and animals alike since plastic is entering our food chain, thanks to its resistance to degeneration. Plastic breaks up into tiny pieces (microplastics) but never completely biodegrades. Because of its resemblance to plankton, these tiny plastic specs are eaten by sea creatures such as whales, turtles and fish, and in turn, ingested by humans. It is estimated that there are over 51 trillion pieces of microplastics in the sea and that more than a million seabirds are killed each year due to plastic pollution.
Malherbe's DOT Challenge aims at mobilising the public to say "no" to single-use plastics - not only during July – but forever. This means avoiding those shopping bags we all buy at supermarket tills; refusing plastic drinking straws, cups and take-away coffee lids; moving away from plastic-shanked earbuds to a more sustainable alternative like wood and ditching sandwich bags and plastic or cling wrap in favour of re-useable containers. “Our planet is just a DOT in the universe and we are just DOT’s on the planet, but if each person steps up to Do One Thing, collectively we can be a force for good for mother nature,” says Malherbe.
You can do your bit by sharing your plastic-free commitment on the DOT Challenge page and using #DOTchallenge to spread the message to friends and register to show your support at PlasticFreeJuly.org