Creating an awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution has been one of the chief successes of SPAR Eastern Cape’s STOP Plastic campaign, launched in April last year.
Initiated by former SPAR EC managing director Conrad Isaac, the campaign emphasises the problems faced by the natural environment while aiming to eliminate the dependence on plastic bags by offering consumers different shopping options.
Statistically, there are impressive numbers, but SPAR EC sponsorships and events manager Alan Stapleton says the increase in awareness among the public has been the biggest success.
“While plastic is a problem, it is more of a people problem,” he says, “and we need go out there to change mind-sets about its use.”
He says the increased interest of other corporates has also created a wave of change that is having a knock-on effect.
“For instance, we have had massive buy-in from our suppliers about what we are trying to achieve.
“However, something we have learnt is that while an enormous amount of work has been done to reduce plastic, we have worked in silos.
“We need to create corporate partnerships to deliver an even more effective message to our customers.”
Following the 2018 launch, 3-million fewer plastic bags were sold from April until September compared to the same period the previous year.
In 2019, there were 1.3-million fewer plastic bags sold from February to June, while the period from July to September saw a 1.2-million reduction in the number sold.
Furthermore, a total of 1.5-million reusable paper bags have been sold since the launch as shoppers are urged to support the cause.
Stapleton says they know they are in for the long haul.
“This is not a quick in-and-out campaign. We have to constantly remind customers of the campaign, to make sure alternative options are visible, and to continue our work with like-minded organisations such as NMU, SANCCOB, Bayworld and the Zwartkops Conservancy.”