Environmentalists have warned that the number of plastics in the oceans will outweigh fish by 2050, if nothing is done to end plastic pollution.

They say the world consumes as much as a trillion plastic bags every year.

Saturday marks “International Plastic Bag Free Day”. A public awareness campaign was held at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront to decrease people from using plastic bags once-off.

Experts say although each plastic bag is used for only 15 minutes, it has a lifespan of 450 years and more. They say nine million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year. Once in the sea, they release toxins and pose a danger to marine life. They often also end up floating about as rubbish.

“We’re told now that this is one of the greatest environmental threats that we face in our time is plastic pollution. When you start hearing stats like by the year 2050 plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish, that’s 30 years away, we really need to make a change now, because if we continue business as usual we might find ourselves in a very sticky situation,” says environmental campaigner from Two Oceans Aquarium, Hayley McLellan.

Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront aims to phase out single use plastics by 2020.

“It’s quite important for us. We sit right at the edge of the sea. We’ve got marine life that’s affected by plastics that get blown into the water. We spend a lot of money in recycling the plastic that we retrieve, and this is a key initiative for us,” says V&A Waterfront head of communications, Donald Kau.

At the Victoria Wharf centre court, recycled plastic was used to produce a large skeleton of a whale, highlighting the damage plastics cause to the oceans and marine life. Retailer Pick n Pay is offering customers cardboard carry-boxes on a trial basis.

“As of the 1st of August our plastic bags will be 100% recyclable of which 65% comes from pre-used plastic bags from consumers whereas most of other recycled are all using factory waste to make recycled bags,” says chairperson of Pick n Pay, Gareth Ackerman.

Recycled bags made entirely from plastic bottles are another alternative on offer to shoppers. Environmentalists say it’s ultimately up to the end user to eliminate all single use plastics.

Watch the video for more on the story: