Around 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, half of which is for single-use. What can we do about it? 

Over the last 50 years, plastic consumption has risen at an alarming rate — Plastic Oceans Foundation estimates that around 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, and 14 percent of all litter comes from beverage containers like water bottles (not including caps and labels). Since only around nine percent of plastic is actually recycled, it has become one of the fastest growing environmental problems of our time. It may seem like an overwhelming task, but it’s time to take responsibility for our day-to-day plastic use.

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Cut back on packaging

One of the most effective ways to cut down on single-use plastic is, of course, to opt for products that are unpackaged. It’s easier said than done, as unfortunately so much of our produce still comes wrapped up in bags and punnets. Where possible, take your own containers and bags to the supermarket for fruits and vegetables, and choose loose items rather than pre-packaged produce. Even better, do your shopping at one of Cape Town’s many markets, like the Oranjezicht City Farm Market Day, which is held at Granger Bay at the V&A Waterfront every Saturday. The weekly event offers a great opportunity to support the non-profit city farm as well as local farmers and artisans while you stock up on fresh herbs, veggies, fruits, and ethically-sourced meat and seafood. Take your own bag or basket along and enjoy some plastic-free shopping in a lovely setting.

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Support responsible businesses

A relatively new (and much needed) addition to Cape Town, Nude Foods is a completely plastic-free grocery store. All of the products in the shop are stored and packaged in reusable containers, like glass jars and cotton bags. The focus of the store is on non-GMO produce and dried goods like legumes and lentils, and because there is a weigh-and-pay system, you can choose exactly how much of each item you want, reducing food waste in the process.

Nude Foods

“The idea was inspired by personal frustration around the amount of unnecessary packaging used by other retailers for regular foods and groceries. I was aware of the growing trend of packaging-free stores in other parts of the world and became increasingly impatient waiting for someone to open one in Cape Town, so I decided to do it myself,” says owner Paul Rubin.

He describes Nude Foods as “an old-school style grocer with a modern twist.”

Pop in for a visit at 5 Constitution Street, Zonnebloem.

Say no to straws

According to a report from the World Economic Forum, at least eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. If this continues to grow, the report warns that plastic will outweigh the ocean’s fish by 2050. It’s a frightening thought, and while straws don’t make up the majority of this weight, they are one of the most harmful of the ocean’s polluters because they are so often consumed by fish and entangle sea creatures. A number of local restaurants are taking the issue seriously — the Ocean Basket franchise recently banned the use of straws and plastic bags at their restaurants, and other businesses, including El Burro, Royale Eatery, and Truth Coffee Roasting, and more, no longer provide straws.

Adjust your coffee habits

So many of us are guilty of buying coffee on the go without thinking about the wasteful single-use packaging this simple indulgence involves. It is estimated that in the thirty years that single-use coffee cups have been in use, over two trillion have ended up in landfills, and because of their plastic content, less than one per cent get recycled.

Ecoffee Cup is a local business that makes reusable takeaway cups designed to last for years. The cups are made from bamboo fibre, which feels like a thick cardboard and is free from BPA and phthalates. The cups are available from a number of spots around Cape Town, including Nude Foods, Bean There Coffee Company, Clarke’s Bar and Dining Room, Ambeans, and Ecco il Caffe.

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