This is the warning issued on Wednesday by the African Marine Waste Network‚ to be launched in July‚ as African countries join hands to stem the torrent of plastic waste entering the oceans.
“International organisations now fear that Africa may soon become as badly polluted as South-East Asia‚ which has the foulest record on the planet‚” said Stephane Meintjes of the Sustainable Seas Trust‚ one of the founders of the network.
“The exact amount of debris entering the sea from South Africa or any other African country is not known. What is known‚ however‚ is that the rapid development of Africa‚ coupled with poverty‚ has seen waste accumulation outpace management.
“The network urgently needs to find out how serious the African problems are‚ where they are and how to address them.”
Meintjes said that worldwide‚ 270kg of plastic entered the sea every second. Plastic washed into rivers and estuaries and then carried to the sea was the main problem.
“By 2045 the flow of plastic into the sea will be 600kg per second … if present trends continue. This situation poses a serious threat to humans‚ to animals and plants and to ecosystems.”
The network‚ to be launched in Port Elizabeth‚ was “an African cross-boundary initiative supported by the private sector which aims to make a contribution to solving a global crisis”.
The Sunday Times recently reported that South Africa’s beaches are awash with plastic – as many as 400 items per metre‚ according to scientific data due to be released by industry body Plastics SA‚ a partner in the network.
Plastic accounts for well over 90% of beach litter‚ with plastic packaging items the most common.