As Day Zero looms large in the lives of Capetonians and the drought in the greater Cape Town and Western Cape intensifies, one of the unforeseen impacts of the water shortage in this area appears to be what some refer to as a 'mountain' of plastic water bottles as consumers try to meet their needs from non-traditional sources.
Consumers in Cape Town and its environs are now down to using a maximum of 50 liters per person per day in an effort to stretch the limited supplies available a long as possible. So naturally, sales of bottled water have skyrocketed as residents look for other sources of potable water. A totally understandable demand for this precious resource has however, created another crisis as calls are being made to recycle the plastic bottles and tops to prevent a massive build-up of plastic on the city's landfill sites. But, whether these calls being heard is creating a new debate in City Hall as the threat of wide scale plastic pollution grows.
Add to this mix, the high potential for coastal pollution from bottles that find their way into stormwater drains and onto beaches around the peninsula, and what was previously just a resource issue for residents and visitors quickly becomes far larger with impacts that affect other species as well. Coastal pollution - particularly plastic pollution in the oceans around the world, have recently been receiving renewed exposure because of what is globally being regarded as a 'quiet tragedy' due to the lack of awareness around the issue.
So while we sympathise with everyone affected by the water crisis in the Western Cape, we call on anyone involved in the service, provision and consumption of bottled water to act responsibly, and to increase efforts to collect and recycle these plastic bottles and caps. The recycling industry is capable and ready to handle this waste and there is no need to send it to landfills - or worse, to throw them on the ground after quenching that growing thirst.