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South African Journal of Science

On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353


CHITAKA, Takunda Y. Environmentalism or greenwashing? Responses of South African value chain actors to plastic straw marine pollution. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2021, vol.117, n.7-8, pp.1-5. ISSN 1996-7489.

The increasing global concern surrounding plastic marine pollution has placed a spotlight on the key items identified as major contributors. The subsequent public outcry has forced key value-chain actors - such as brand owners, retailers and restaurateurs - to be seen to be responding to the issue. However, are their responses motivated by a true desire for environmentalism or are actors engaging in greenwashing? In this case study on plastic straws, the brand owners and retailers interviewed are driven by a desire to meet consumer expectations. This desire has led to the substitution of plastic straws with glass, paper and polylactide alternatives. However, the broader environmental implications of the alternatives are rarely considered. This single-minded focus on marine pollution has the potential to result in inadvertent greenwashing as alternative products may result in more harm in other environmental compartments.SIGNIFICANCE: • The increasing concern surrounding plastic pollution has placed a spotlight on key items, forcing plastic value-chain actors to respond. • The broader environmental impacts of the interventions are rarely considered, resulting in the potential for adoption of products which may result in increased harm in other environmental compartments.

Keywords : plastic pollution; marine plastic; plastic alternatives; pollution mitigation; single-use plastic.

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