TWO Oceans Aquarium Environmental Campaigner, Hayley McLellan, visited East London and shared her Rethink the Bag campaign message at Merrifield School last Friday.
McLellan introduced herself as a plastic shopping bag “addict”, having banned plastic shopping bags from her life 11 years ago.
“I started my quest back in 2007 and it has not made my life more difficult.“For me, banning plastic shopping bags was an easy adjustment,” the former Dolphin and Penguin trainer said.
“I did not come here to shock people. I came here to show them the reality of our world and to motivate them to make a difference, because if I can do it, then there is no reason why everybody else can’t,” she said.
Every year an average of eight billion plastic shopping bags are used in South Africa. 96% of those end up in landfills after one to two uses, while many eventually make it to our oceans.
Targeting individuals, retailers, schools and companies, McLellan’s campaign hopes to inspire a major reduction in that number.
Starting in Muizenburg, McLellan and her colleagues from the Two Oceans Aquarium spent 10 days travelling down the coast sharing their stories on the aquarium’s turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release programme as well as McLellan’s campaign.
After finishing up in Port Elizabeth, McLellan decided to stay behind and present in King William’s Town and East London.
“Our programme has seen many successes, but we’ve also seen the detrimental effects of plastic on marine life,” she said.
“It is always sad when we do a post-mortem on a hatchling that has been washed up on the shore, only to reveal that plastic was the main cause of death,” McLellan said.
“The problem is single use plastics like plastic shopping bags and the perceived convenience that they offer.”
“Every piece of plastic ever made is still on the Earth today and if we keep making and using at the current rate, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.”