Plastic pollution in our oceans can show itself as dead seabirds filled with bottle caps, marine mammals entangled in fishing lines, or drifting plastic bags mimicking jellyfish. Last year, an international study estimated that a staggering eight million metric tonnes of plastic waste enters the oceans from land each year.
SOHAR Port and Freezone prides itself on some of the strictest and best-policed environmental standards in the region, both above and below the waterline. To help raise awareness of the issues and to encourage recycling, SOHAR recently installed drop-off points at strategic locations around the Port and Freezone. Colour coded bins accept glass, paper and plastics, while solar powered, backlit panels allow the latest environmental campaign messages to be displayed.
The kick-off campaign shows an underwater view of a beautiful coral reef. However, when you look more closely the coral is made of colourful plastic waste, the jellyfish are floating plastic bags, and a passing school of fish are in fact old bottles. The headline makes the message clear: ‘Recycle it up here. Not down there.’
Plastic is a collective term for a variety of synthetic polymers with variable material properties, including density. For example, clear plastic drink bottles made of PET, with resin code #1 stamped on the bottom, are denser than seawater and sink when they enter the ocean. SOHAR CEO Mark Geilenkirchen said: “This is not simply an aesthetic problem — we know these materials breakdown over time to create so-called micro-plastics, that are ingested by fish and other marine organisms and can then easily enter the human food chain.”
While much research remains to be done, one thing is sure, eating plastic is not a healthy diet for anyone. In 2014, a one-day clean-up of beaches around the world by International Coastal Clean-up volunteers collected more than 5,500 metric tonnes of rubbish, including more than two million cigarette butts and hundreds of thousands of food wrappers, drink bottles, bottle caps, drinking straws and plastic bags.
SOHAR aims to reduce the amount of material discarded around its concession areas through improved environmental awareness initiatives, beach clean-up volunteer days, and better communication between the various stakeholders involved. Mark Geilenkirchen summed it up: “When it comes to environmental pollution, prevention is always the best option and our new recycling bins will play a small but important part.”