What is Blue Flag status?
The Blue Flag programme was launched in France in 1987 as a programme to promote environmental education and sustainable management of beaches, marinas and eco-tourism boats worldwide. It's mission is to "...educate to protect. To protect not just our environment but the people who live in it, the communities who depend on it, the businesses who profit from it and the ecosystems which rely on it!" (blueflag.global; 2016)
Since its inception, the Blue Flag programme has evolved into a world-renowned eco-label trusted by millions.
The national implementing partner for Blue Flag in South Africa is environmental organisation WESSA ((the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa).
How is a beach's Blue Flag status determined?
"In order to qualify for this prestigious award, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety-related and access-related criteria must be met and maintained." (blueflag.global; 2016) The strict approval process involves both national and international assessments.
2016/2017 Blue Flag Beaches in South Africa
This year, 58 Blue Flags will be flown at coastal sites around South Africa over the 2016/17 Blue Flag season, which opened on 1 November 2016.
This number is composed of a total of 45 beaches, 5 marinas and 8 sustainable tourism boats.
Paddling into a clean, empty line-up nowadays is about as rare as, well, I don’t know. And no, I’m not talking about a line-up without people, I’m talking about a line-up that’s empty of rubbish, empty of paper, plastic, packets and who knows what else. Surfs nowadays are becoming ever-more synonymous with picking your way through rubbish, getting up on a wave and hoping a plastic packet doesn’t get caught under your skegs and duck diving with your mouth squeezed tightly shut in the hopes that you don’t swallow any sea water with all the dodgy stuff floating in it. This problem is larger than South Africa, and surfers, it’s a worldwide issue that affects each and every one of us. Let’s face it, no one likes sitting on a beach and having an old plastic packet flying up to you and wrapping itself around your legs. Or even worse, going on holiday to a beautiful tropical island with great expectations, only to sit on beaches littered with empty plastic bottles or snorkelling on coral reefs only to see brightly coloured plastic in place of the fish. Furthermore, have you ever stopped to consider the damage all this extra rubbish is posing to the environment – killing plants and marine life alike.
Yes, it may be easy to sit behind our screens and point fingers at everyone else, but what good is that in the long run? If we really want to make a change, we need to start taking responsibility ourselves and inspire others to do the same. It’s time to get rid of that ‘I’m only one person, how on earth can I make a difference’ mentality. Sure, we may not be able to change the way our country runs, but we can change and drastically improve the state and cleanliness of our countries and our oceans through the simple act of recycling.
We all know that recycling can be a bit of a schlep; it requires separating your rubbish into different bins and more often than not involves the extra effort of driving to a local municipal drop-off centre to drop off your recyclable goods. No wonder many people choose to opt for the simple act of just throwing all our rubbish into a big black bag and place it onto the curb outside on rubbish day – it’s comfortable and requires no effort or driving around.
So what can be recycled?
Metal, glass, plastic, paper, tetrapack.
Most municipalities across South Africa have recycling drop off stations, all you really need to do is rinse and separate your rubbish then go and drop your rubbish off at these recycling depots whenever your recycling bins get full. Trust me, this little bit of effort can make a big difference. Many municipalities even offer pick-up services for items such as plastic and paper, meaning you don’t have to drive ANYWHERE to drop off these two items!
There are also many independent companies in South Africa that offer recycling services for consumers at a price. Definitely worth checking out if you’re one of those busy bees that just wants to relax when the day/week is over.
Other things you can do to make a difference:
Take your own bags to the shops to avoid collecting more packets in your cupboard or simply throwing them away once unpacked.