30 June 2014

Give the bag the boot!

International Plastic Bag Free Day is recognised annually on 3 July. This year the Two Oceans Aquarium, through its Rethink the Bag environmental campaign, will encourage visitors to stop using single-use plastic shopping bags and to sign a petition to have these bags banned from retailers in South Africa.

Visitors to the Aquarium on the day will be encouraged to bring their single-use bags with them. Individuals will receive a reusable material bag in exchange for every 20 plastic bags they bring in.

Hayley McLellan started the Rethink the Bag campaign while working as an animal behaviourist at Two Oceans Aquarium. She approached the Aquarium’s Director regarding the campaign, and in April 2011 he issued a memorandum to staff and volunteers informing them that, with immediate effect, plastic shopping bags were banned from the Aquarium premises. Rethink the Bag is integrated into the Aquarium’s own sustainability efforts and is promoted at every opportunity through exhibits, signage, training and awareness initiatives, and education programmes. In October 2013 Hayley was appointed to the newly created position of Environmental Campaigner to run with Rethink the Bag as a full-time Two Oceans Aquarium campaign.

The campaign has gained considerable momentum during the past year. Various companies, organisations, schools and even small towns have shown their support for the campaign and have indicated their interest in, or have in fact committed to, becoming plastic bag free. In 2013 PAAZAB (African Association of Zoos and Aquariums) adopted the campaign as its two-year environmental campaign. Member organisations are encouraged to ban the bag from their premises.

“The time is now for South Africans to stand together in support of a plastic bag-free country. Acknowledging the 3 July International Plastic Bag Free Day campaign is a conscious start towards a plastic shopping-bag ban and respecting the environment. We can all make the choice to commit to one responsible environmental action, and in so doing make a difference,” says McLellan.

Greyton in the Overberg and the suburb of Hout Bay will also highlight International Plastic Bag Free Day through various activities. Greyton has committed itself to becoming the first plastic bag-free town in South Africa. The town has already made significant inroads towards achieving this goal.

Through the continued commitment and cooperation by Hout Bay community project “Thrive”, many of the major retailers within Hout Bay will not have any plastic shopping bags available for their customers on 3 July. Instead, reusable bags will be on sale at these retailers. The Two Oceans Aquarium’s travelling puppet show, “Keep the Beach Clean”, will be performed in the Mainstream Amphitheatre at 10.30am and 1pm

For further information regarding Rethink the Bag, International Plastic Bag Free Day or to be put into contact with the participating towns, please contact Hayley McLellan on hayley.mclellan@aquarium.co.za, or visit rethinkthebag.org to join the movement to ban the single-use plastic in South Africa.

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