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Environment news | Njus South Africa

Plastic poses a major environmental threat but is it being over-stated?

Environment The South African

There is no doubt that plastic affects the environment badly. But a trend has developed in the reporting on the impact of plastics that’s not only selective but also borders on panic mongering rather than impartial analysis of existing studies.
'Contrary to a great deal of media coverage which has placed plastic as environmental public enemy number one, I would argue that it’s not in the same league as the climate crisis, consumerism and human population growth which, collectively, threaten the biosphere. I’ve devoted a fair amount of my research career to studying plastic in marine ecosystems, and I’m not saying we should be blasé about their impact. But we need to be responsible when reporting the effects, and provide an honest assessment of their severity. Two English environmental conservation experts, Richard Stafford and Peter Jones, recently argued in Ocean plastic pollution: A convenient but distracting truth? that plastic has become a ‘convenient truth’ which is distracting people and governments from the really serious environmental challenges the world faces. Why is plastic perceived to be such a significant threat? Part of the answer probably lies in the fact that it’s much harder to accept the kind of life-style changes needed to address the climate crisis than it is to reduce reliance on single use plastic. But biased reporting also contributes to the problem. Some misleading stories One of the first alarmist statistics put into the public domain was the claim in 2001 that there was six times more plastic than zooplankton in the North Pacific ‘garbage patch’. The data came from a paper by the then director of the Algalita Marine Research and Education Foundation, Charles James Moore. In fact, he reported that zooplankton was five times more abundant than plastic, but that plastic weighed six times more. The popular media chose to highlight the latter figure. What Moore failed to stress was that the research behind these statistics only sampled the top few centimetres of the ocean where floating plastic concentrates. This is significant because zooplankton is distributed much more uniformly with depth. If Moore had sampled through the water column, the figure would have been much less impressive. Another oft-abused figure states that 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic by 2050. Most people interpret this to mean 99% of individual seabirds will have plastic in them. Yet the study simply tried to predict what proportion of species will have ingested plastic at least once. Given the prevalence of microfibres in the ocean, it is inevitable that all seabirds have already consumed some fibres. The real question is, does this have a significant impact on them? For most species, the answer is probably no, at least relative to the threats they face from fishing, invasive species, disease and climate change. And a new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has also set off alarm bells. It claims that an average person could be ingesting 5 g of microplastics per week. The report was based on a study that’s still under review from the University of Newcastle that indicates human ingestion is of the order of 2000 microplastic particles per week, mostly in drinking water. Subsequent correspondence with WWF revealed that the study used two approaches. The value of 5 g per week was based on an estimate of the average size of microplastics in aquatic environments, which is 2.8 mg. This makes each about the size of a sesame seed. This doesn’t seem plausible. We’d notice if we were consuming 250 sesame seeds in our drinking water every day. Most microplastic contaminants in food and drinks are much smaller and weigh much less than this. A second approach, based on the size of particles found in food and drink, estimated ingestion at 0.1-0.3 g per week. Even this range is too high, because many microplastics are fibres, which weigh much less than fragments of similar size. I estimate a value closer to 0.005 g per week. The problem with research of this nature – and the media coverage it gets – is that most people will see the headline and think they’re eating 5g of plastic a week. We need to guard against selective and biased reporting of scientific studies to pursue particular agendas. We should do all we can to limit the amount of waste plastic entering the environment. But we cannot afford to allow the focus on plastic to detract from tackling the challenges that threaten our very existence, as well as that of millions of other species. Peter Ryan, Director, FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article .'

How Australia inspired this conservationist to combat pollution in Gansbaai

Environment The South African

The marine environment in Gansbaai has a new saviour.
'The marine environment in and around Gansbaai has a chance to thrive without the beckoning threat of pollution, This is all thanks to Wilfred Chivell from Marine Dynamics Tours and the founder of the Dyre Island Conservation Trust. How did Chivell combat pollution in Gansbaai? Chivell, aided by a similar project in Australia, managed to find a solution to the threatening pollution that has, for a long time, been carrying large amounts of pollution into the marine environment via the town’s stormwater drain outlets. In a statement released on the non-profit organisation’s website , it is revealed that Chivell saw the answer to the growing pollution problem in the town, particularly in the Gansbaai Harbour areas, in the oyster net system used by fishermen. “The first net design was sponsored by Marine Dynamics and project leaders Hennie Otto (Marine Dynamics) and Benjamin Kondokter of the Overstrand Municipality placed the net on World Oceans Day 8 June. “It was tested during a rainstorm but tore due to a design flaw in the oyster net used. Wilfred and Hennie then approached Ian Wessels of Wildegans Fishery who kindly donated the sardine purse seine net and stitching work required and this was placed on Plastic Bag Free Day 3 July,” the NPO stated. “The pollution will be recycled where possible” – Chivell Thanks to Chivell, Marine Dynamics and the Overstrand Municipality, the much-improved nets will prevent pollutants and solid waste carried by the stormwater from flowing into the vulnerable marine environment. Chivell indicated that the pollution collected by the nets will also serve a useful purpose, and will not just be dumped. “Dyer Island Conservation Trust is the first port of call for marine animal rescues and strandings in the Gansbaai area and we have witnessed first-hand the impact on our marine wildlife. “We hope that through this project we can minimise this impact by reducing the amount of waste entering the marine system. Unfortunately, most of the waste will probably not be suitable for recycling, but we will do this where possible. This is a worldwide problem and our dream is to roll this out in the Overstrand and in South Africa,” he said. There are 63 stormwater outlets in Gansbaai, and this small victory holds a lot of promise for the future of marine life in the area. Chivell revealed that much of the maintenance and oversight of the project will be done in collaboration with the Overstrand Municipality. “There will be costs in the manufacture and ongoing management. Marine Dynamics and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust are committed to this project and have made applications for grant funding. The Trust hopes to turn trash into treasure with artworks and educational displays,” the NPO said.'

First litter-trapping stormwater net launches in Gansbaai

Environment CapeTown ETC

Gansbaai Harbour has long struggled with excessive pollution.However, thanks to a little inspiration from Australia and the dedicated efforts of Wildfred Chivell, founder of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, this area finally has a hope of
'Gansbaai Harbour has long struggled with excessive pollution.However, thanks to a little inspiration from Australia and the dedicated efforts of Wildfred Chivell, founder of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, this area finally has a hope of fighting back against plastic pollution.Chivell realised the need for a net system over one of the storm water drain outlets in Gansbaai, and inspired by a successful Australia project with similar aims has managed to install a much-needed system in the area.Litter collected by the newly-installed net system.The first net design was sponsored by Marine Dynamics Tours and project leaders Hennie Otto from Marine Dynamics and Benjamin Kondokter from the Overstrand Municipality.The net was installed on World Oceans Day on June 8.Unfortunately, the net tore during a rainstorm due to a design flaw and incorrect oyster net used.Otto and Kondokter didn’t stop there, though, and approached Ian Wessels of Wildegans Fishery.The fishery kindly lended their expertise in stitching work and sardine purse seine net for free, so the system could be reinstalled on July 3 – which also happened to be Plastic Bag Free Day.The net’s design aims to prevent pollutants and solid waste from being carried from local road networks into the storm water system, and eventually the marine environment.All the litter successfully collected by the new net system. “We noted the pollution from the storm water drain in the Gansbaai harbour, whilst on a clean-up,” said Wilfred Chivell. “The outlet leads straight to nearby rock pools and into the ocean.The kelp that traps some of the waste makes it difficult to clean and this too is ultimately washed out to sea.We have been doing cleans up for twenty years and 80% of the waste is plastic.Dyer Island Conservation Trust is the first port of call for marine animal rescues and strandings in the Gansbaai area and we have witnessed first-hand the impact on our marine wildlife. “We hope that through this project we can minimise this impact by reducing the amount of waste entering the marine system.Unfortunately, most of the waste will probably not be suitable for recycling, but we will do this where possible.This is a worldwide problem and our dream is to roll this out in the Overstrand and in South Africa,” he added.The net will be monitored by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust team as the project continues, and the collected litter will be assessed.There are a total of 63 storm water outlets in the Gansbaai area alone, and if successful, the project will hopefully extend to more areas and become a long-term collaboration with the Overstrand Municipality, starting with more problematic areas being dealt with.Grant funding applications have been made by the committed teams at Marine Dynamics and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and plans are to turn the collected litter into artworks and educational displays going forward.Cape Town has a huge number of concerning pollution hotspots that could benefit from similar project, be it Black River or Liesbeek River, and hopes are that this project is not only successful in Gansbaai but will spread across the Mother City in years to come.You can find out more about the Dryer Island Conservation Trust and how you can support them here . Pictures: Hennie Otto, Marine Dynamics . The post First litter-trapping stormwater net launches in Gansbaai appeared first on CapeTown ETC .'

Gansbaai launches litter trapping stormwater nets

Environment CapeTown ETC

Gansbaai Harbour has long struggled with excessive pollution.However, thanks to a little inspiration from Australia and the dedicated efforts of Wildfred Chivell, founder of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, this area finally has a hope of
'Gansbaai Harbour has long struggled with excessive pollution.However, thanks to a little inspiration from Australia and the dedicated efforts of Wildfred Chivell, founder of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, this area finally has a hope of fighting back against plastic pollution.Chivell realised the need for a net system over one of the storm water drain outlets in Gansbaai, and inspired by a successful Australia project with similar aims has managed to install a much-needed system in the area.Litter collected by the newly-installed net system.The first net design was sponsored by Marine Dynamics Tours and project leaders Hennie Otto from Marine Dynamics and Benjamin Kondokter from the Overstrand Municipality.The net was installed on World Oceans Day on June 8.Unfortunately, the net tore during a rainstorm due to a design flaw and incorrect oyster net used.Otto and Kondokter didn’t stop there, though, and approached Ian Wessels of Wildegans Fishery.The fishery kindly lended their expertise in stitching work and sardine purse seine net for free, so the system could be reinstalled on July 3 – which also happened to be Plastic Bag Free Day.The net’s design aims to prevent pollutants and solid waste from being carried from local road networks into the storm water system, and eventually the marine environment.All the litter successfully collected by the new net system. “We noted the pollution from the storm water drain in the Gansbaai harbour, whilst on a clean-up,” said Wilfred Chivell. “The outlet leads straight to nearby rock pools and into the ocean.The kelp that traps some of the waste makes it difficult to clean and this too is ultimately washed out to sea.We have been doing cleans up for twenty years and 80% of the waste is plastic.Dyer Island Conservation Trust is the first port of call for marine animal rescues and strandings in the Gansbaai area and we have witnessed first-hand the impact on our marine wildlife. “We hope that through this project we can minimise this impact by reducing the amount of waste entering the marine system.Unfortunately, most of the waste will probably not be suitable for recycling, but we will do this where possible.This is a worldwide problem and our dream is to roll this out in the Overstrand and in South Africa,” he added.The net will be monitored by the Dyer Island Conservation Trust team as the project continues, and the collected litter will be assessed.There are a total of 63 storm water outlets in the Gansbaai area alone, and if successful, the project will hopefully extend to more areas and become a long-term collaboration with the Overstrand Municipality, starting with more problematic areas being dealt with.Grant funding applications have been made by the committed teams at Marine Dynamics and the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and plans are to turn the collected litter into artworks and educational displays going forward.Cape Town has a huge number of concerning pollution hotspots that could benefit from similar project, be it Black River or Liesbeek River, and hopes are that this project is not only successful in Gansbaai but will spread across the Mother City in years to come.You can find out more about the Dryer Island Conservation Trust and how you can support them here . Pictures: Hennie Otto, Marine Dynamics . The post Gansbaai launches litter trapping stormwater nets appeared first on CapeTown ETC .'

Paris Bans Old Diesels In Bid To Tackle Pollution

Environment iAfrica.com

Paris on Monday banned all diesel vehicles aged 13 years or over from the city centre, the latest move in a campaign to tackle pollution on the city’s streets.
'Paris on Monday banned all diesel vehicles aged 13 years or over from the city centre, the latest move in a campaign to tackle pollution on the city’s streets.Diesel vehicles over 18 years old and petrol vehicles over 21 years old are already banned in Paris – a measure that was extended Monday to a new “low-emissions” belt surrounding the city.Central Paris meanwhile went further by also banning diesel cars, trucks and motorbikes aged 13 years and over – a move aimed at cleaning up the air in a city that is regularly shrouded in smog.Motorists who flout the traffic restrictions in central Paris, which were trialled during last week’s heatwave, face a 68-euro ($77) fine, rising to 135 euros for trucks and buses.A Greenpeace report listed Paris as the worst western European capital for small particle air pollution in 2018, with levels higher than cities such as the Philippines capital Manila or the Colombian capital Bogota.Beyond the city’s boundaries, the authorities are also clamping down on polluters in the 47 districts that ring the central Paris region, which are home to around 5.5 million people.Unlike in central Paris, however, offenders in the suburbs, where car dependency is greater, face no punishment for the first two years of the ban.The government agreed to a two-year punishment-free “learning period” after resistance from some mayors who feared that the ban could rekindle the “yellow vest” protests, which erupted late last year among motorists furious over fuel price hikes.The protests quickly escalated into an anti-government revolt, marked by weekly demonstrations in cities around France that have regularly turned violent.Reflecting on the lessons learnt, a senior official for the greater Paris area, Patrick Ollier, told reporters last week: “We don’t want to force the environment on people, but rather that it be accepted as the outcome of dialogue.” The subject of air quality has become a burning issue for governments across the EU, where green parties made strong gains in May’s elections to the European Parliament.In November, Madrid followed a handful of other European cities that have restricted traffic in their centres.But whereas London, Stockholm and Milan have sought to dissuade motorists by driving into the city centre by hitting them with congestion taxes Madrid went further, banning many vehicles from accessing the centre altogether and fining them if they did.In France, air pollution causes 48,000 extra deaths a year, according to the health service, making it the country’s second-biggest killer after smoking, ahead of alcohol.Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has restricted car access and promoted walking and cycling in central Paris in a bid to banish the smog that periodically shrouds the capital.The city aims to phase out the use of diesel cars by the time it hosts the Summer Olympics in 2024.AFP . The post Paris Bans Old Diesels In Bid To Tackle Pollution appeared first on iAfrica.com .'

Pollution and smog plague lives on South Africa’s Highveld

Environment The South African

The human cost of South Africa's reliance on coal is starting to be sorely felt by those surrounded by pollution on the South African Highveld.
'The residents of the Highveld are starting to experience the catastrophic consequences of having to live your life constantly surrounded by pollution. Tragic tales Tumelo has again lost several days at school because of sickness. The 14-year-old lives in house number 3094 of eMpumelelweni township in eMalahleni, part of the Highveld region turned over to mines and power plants that, according to activists, are killing local people. “My eyes are burning. Sometimes I can’t breathe,” she coughs. “The doc said there is nothing we can do,” says her mother Nono Ledwaba. “We need to take her out of eMalahleni. When she goes to her grandma in Mafikeng, the symptoms disappear.” Her neighbour in 3095, Lifa Pelican, has similar symptoms, which badly set back his schooling. At 25, he never moves without his inhaler, even inside his chilly home with rough-hewn walls. “If I don’t have it with me, sometimes I can’t breathe. Sometimes I feel I am going to die,” he says. “These mines get a lot of money and we suffer. There’s solar power. We don’t need to use these coal plants.” Green energy such as solar and wind power account for less than two percent of electricity production in South Africa, while coal still provides 86 percent. Lifa’s breathing troubles began after he moved to eMalahleni, at the mercy of gritty coal dust and thick whitish smoke of electricity power stations burning fuel day and night. Relief comes when he visits his father in Nelspruit, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, trips that feel like a new lease on life. “I don’t use the inhaler.” Tumelo’s own troubles began when the family moved to eMalahleni in 2007, when she was a toddler. The trips to Mafikeng are literally a breath of fresh air — her grandmother’s home is 400 kms from the mines. “The only solution is to close down the plants, but will this happen?” Ledwaba asks. eMalahleni, which means “the place of coal”, is among the worst places in the world for pollution by nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, according to Greenpeace. Deadly pollution levels South Africa, like many developing countries, has placed a heavy bet on coal for its development – a fuel that is plentiful, cheap and locally-sourced. But campaign groups say health and climate costs are high. Two environmental non-governmental organisations, groundWork and Vukani, say they have identified the top culprits. They include 12 coal-burning power stations run by state-owned Eskom along with a plant for liquefying coal and an oil refinery. Pollution from these sites was responsible for between 305 and 650 premature deaths in 2016, say the two NGOs. They have initiated a suit against the government for violation of the constitutional right to clean air – a legal first in South Africa, the leading industrial power on the continent. The NGOs contend that the government has failed to reduce deadly pollution levels in the area, just an hour and a half’s drive from Johannesburg. “It has evolved into a public health crisis,” says Tim Lloyd, lawyer for groundWork and Vukani. “The cost of the air pollution to our economy each year is around 35 billion rand (1.8 billion euros, $2 billion).” In response to the accusations, an environment ministry spokesman told AFP that SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions have shown improvements across all the five monitoring stations in the worst-affected region of the Highveld. Criticism by environmental groups fails to recognise these improvements, the ministry stated, declining to give further details about the data. “The reality is that the desired improvements will not happen over a short period of time,” it said. Eskom admitted the area’s pollution problem “requires urgent attention”, adding that domestic coal burning, traffic and mining dust were also to blame. ‘The life of my kids’ “When people from other provinces come, they start getting sick with respiratory issues,” says Alexis Mashifane, a doctor with a busy practice in Middelberg, 30 kms from eMalahleni. “When they leave this area, some of them get better.” But many have no choice, saying they are stuck in the toxic region for economic reasons. “I wish to move away because this place is not right,” says Mbali Mathebula, a single mother who is raising a small daughter and a baby girl, both suffering from asthma. “I don’t have money to buy a house”. In Mathebula’s home at the foot of the Schonland coal mine, five-year-old Princess plays with the useless mask given to her mother at hospital. Mathebula, a supermarket employee, could not afford a 70-euro ($80) oxygen machine to attach to the mask. If a child has an asthma attack in the night, Mathebula says she has to wait until the morning and then go to hospital. “Sometimes I don’t have money to go there. I must borrow.” Her neighbour Cebile Faith Mkhwanazi has to cope with her three-year-old daughter’s asthma attacks. “I’m thinking of taking them to my mother,” she adds, broken-hearted. “So that they stay there forever for their health.” By Béatrice Debut'