More than 30 local celebrities and influencers will pledge to give up plastic shopping bags in July, backing the Rethink the Bag campaign's latest initiative.
The Plastic-free July campaign kicked off at the Two Oceans Aquarium on Tuesday evening with big names such as Jack Parow and Roxy Louw in attendance.
"We're spreading the message for people to try and reduce the amount of single-use plastic that they use – and in this case, the shopping bag in particular," Aaniyah Omardien, founder of NPO the Beach Co-op, explained.
"It stays in the system for more than 400 years... and we only use it for 12 to 14 minutes."
According to Omardien, plastic bags are part of the so-called "dirty dozen" twelve items that are most commonly found on beach clean-ups.
Although the Rethink the Bag campaign has been running since 2011, founder Hayley McLellan likes to think of the new initiative as a relaunch.
South Africa uses approximately eight-billion plastic bags a year. McLellan has been campaigning against the use of plastic shopping bags since 2007, when she herself stopped using them. She says the movement has gained a lot more momentum in the last year.
"Last year was a bit of a tipping point for this conversation about single-use plastic in general worldwide and this year it's just exploded, which is so exciting," she said.
McLellan is working closely with the V&A Waterfront to go plastic shopping bag free and has scored a few high-profile victories with retailers such as Bargain Books getting on board and Spar Eastern Cape committing to phasing out plastic bags.
According to McLellan, South Africans use approximately eight-billion plastic shopping bags every year – most of which end up in landfills and the remainder making their way into the ocean where they cause serious harm to marine life and break down into sinister microplastics.
"This is said to be now the greatest environmental crisis we face currently.
"Basically if we don't do something about the way we're behaving with single-use plastic... the scientists tell us that by the year 2050 there'll be more plastic in the ocean than fish, which is just incomprehensible – it's wrong on so many levels."
While phasing out single-use plastics may seem like a mammoth task, Omardien said ordinary South Africans can make a difference.
"We as citizens can do a couple of things – we can certainly put pressure on retailers to reduce their packaging; we can definitely try and reduce our own consumption and also push for more recycling to happen; and then also to participate in beach clean-ups to make a difference that way – so those are the three things that we can do right now," she said.
"Take your shopping bag wherever you go, whenever you go shopping. You have to create a new habit, it takes a little bit of forethought in the beginning, eventually it just becomes normal, natural," McLellan said.