Africa is the second most polluted continent on the planet. Therefore action needs to be taken as soon as possible to address this environmental issue. Dr. Tony Ribbink, Sustainable Seas Trust CEO, at the PET Recycling Company (Petco) at the annual general meeting said that there is a certain amount of gloom of doom surrounding the pollution problem, a lot of good is also been done he recognises. 

“Africa is in clear danger of taking top spot unless responsibility for the crisis is shouldered at all levels,” said Dr. Ribbink, who is a former director of the World Bank GEF project on Lake MalawiNyasa for Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. He acknowledges Africa is pioneering change in new methods and activities to counter plastic pollution. “Industry is also becoming more committed to sustainability and finding solutions where previously there appeared to be none.”

South African bottlers are increasingly assisting with the drive to improve recycling rates. Plastic bottle recycling increased from 65% of all bottles produced in the country in 2017- up from 55% in 2016, according to recently released figures. Great news is also that PET bottles recovered in SA were reprocessed locally into new end-use products. 

“South Africa no longer imports polyester staple fibre, which is a synthetic fibre made from PET plastic and used in the manufacture of clothing and other items. The fibre is now being exported, bringing valuable foreign earnings into the country,” said Cheri Scholtz, Petco CEO. Ribbink adds that there is a lack of real measurable data to get the real picture of one of the world’s greatest threats to our ecology. He made mention Port Elizabeth and made an example of city, that he describes as blazing a trail in the fight against plastic pollution. He believes if Port Elizabeth continues on this journey it will be the cleanest city in SA by 2021. “People are being mobilised in number of ways including using mobile apps to monitor on the ground where the major pollution problems are, not just on beaches and estuaries but also where people live, work, and play,” he said. The movement towards plastic eradication is so strong that a R60million plastic waste scientific research and community empowerment initiative will result in the establishment of the very first Africa Waste Academy in the city within the next 5 years. 

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