Plastic straws

We can all contribute, even in the tiniest of ways, to minimising waste and dependence on plastic. It is actually easier than you think.

“Seldom do we give a second thought to where our stuff goes after we use it,” writes John Duncan, Senior Manager of the marine programme at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) South Africa.

“It’s worth stopping to ponder for a moment that all of the plastic ever created still exists today – that’s over a hundred years’ worth of plastic, and it’s growing every day.”

While the country does have a growing recycling industry, says Duncan, a large portion of plastic will never be recycled because of poor economic returns or because the type of plastic is not actually recyclable.

READ MORE: Pick n Pay says it will cut plastic use to support oceans initiative

Limit the plastic in your life

Here’s a few simple tips that could make a big difference:

The problem: Plastic straws.
The fix: Refuse to accept straws at restaurants and when buying takeaways. Paper straws are becoming more and common in food outlets. Encourage your favourite restaurant to swap plastic for paper.

The problem: Buying plastic bags when going shopping.
The fix: Opt to use reusable shopping bags, which are widely available.

The problem: Plastic wrapping of most grocery and cleaning items.
The fix: Buy these items in cardboard boxes – which are easier to recycle – instead of plastic packaging. For example, rather buy a bar of soap in a box and ditch the bottled liquid soaps.

READ MORE: By 2050 there may be more plastic in oceans than fish – UN

The problem: Buying hot beverages such as tea and coffee regularly as take-aways.
The fix: Make your own and carry it in a reusable travel mug, or ask your barista to fill your mug instead of a take-away cup.

The problem: Plastic containers of many grocery items, such as ice cream or margarine.
The fix: Reuse these containers as you see fit. They can come in handy to store leftovers or groceries, if you buy in bulk.

The problem: Buying sandwiches in plastic boxes, and juices or water in bottles.
The fix: Pack your own lunch in containers that can be reused. Use a glass bottle for your water and juice, which you can also refill at home.


The problem: Disposable razors.
The fix: Buy a razor with interchangeable blades.

The problem: Toothbrushes are made mainly from plastic.
The fix: Buy toothbrushes made of bamboo.

The problem: Disposable plastic lighters.
The fix: Use matches or buy a metal lighter that allows you to refill the gas.

The problem: Coffee pods.
The fix: Buy ground coffee that can be used in plungers.