Stikeez & The Sea

OK. Difficult one here. Difficult because I’m a big fan of the local Aquarium and virtually everything that they stand for, but I find myself disagreeing with them on this issue. A bit, anyway.

Firstly, let me tell you that I’m a member of the Aquarium, as are my kids. We have been for several (or more) years. We go there often, we love their behind the scenes tours, we were excited about their revamp, we take them turtles (well, a turtle) and we’re very supportive of their work.

Yesterday, the Aquarium published a blog post on their views about the new Stikeez promotion at local retailing behemoth PicknPay. For those unaware of what a Stikeez is, it’s a small plastic toy with a sucker on the bottom, one of which you are given with every R150 you spend at the supermarket. This is the second Stikeez promotion that PicknPay have launched. The first one was… well… a spectacular success.

But the Aquarium are unhappy about this new promotion, simply because it flies in the face of their understandable and commendable stance on plastics – namely that there’s too much in the ocean already. Their view has been brought even more sharply into focus by the fact that this lot of toys have an “under the sea” theme.

So, let me set my stall out here. Yes, I agree that there is too much plastic in the ocean, and yes, I agree that this is a bad thing. My family are doing their bit to help out here. We recycle all our plastic, we use refills rather than new bottles for washing up liquid, deodorant, shower gel, window cleaner and fabric conditioner, and we all routinely reject plastic straws at restaurants, much to the bemusement of waiting staff across the Western Cape.

But – and here’s the crux of my argument on this one – those things I listed above are single-use plastics. And I don’t agree that Stikeez fall into this category – our kids still have theirs from last year.
Looking at the Aquarium post, I’m not sure they are 100% on it either:

The issue is the fact that more unnecessary (and essentially single-use) plastic waste is being introduced into the environment via a major national retailer…

You could argue that additional introduction of any plastic is bad, and you’d probably be heading along the right lines. But you can’t just stop using plastic. It’s simply not possible – it’s an essential material in our lives whether we like it or not. And if we’re going to say no to Stikeez on the grounds that they are “essentially single-use”, why are we content to say yes to sweet wrappers, cling-wrapped produce, bread tags and the like?
And if you want to take the argument further and say that it doesn’t matter whether they are single-use or not, then presumably Crocs, Bic ball-point pens and toothbrushes are next on your hit list?
(Seriouslythough: if you actually have a hitlist and Crocs are next on it, well done.)

It’s that sort of inconsistency and s-t-r-e-t-c-h that doesn’t sit easily with me. The previous Stikeez campaign was attacked simply because people wanted to be seen attacking it. It became silly: people complained about the wrappers on the floor, and yes, littering is bad, but that’s not a Stikeez issue, that’s a teaching your kids general respect and responsibility issue.

And then remember all that drama over another supermarket promotion a few months back? The one that was blamed for starvation, unemployment, drought and inflation – before this pièce de résistance:

Maybe, a child might actually mistake it for food and try eat it and accidentally choke and die?
Shame on you.

I’m not saying that the Aquarium are going down Hyperbole Street, although I don’t doubt that some people will take things that way. But that’s not an Aquarium issue, that’s a people are just complete cockwombles issue.
There are already one or two on the Aquarium FB page:

fullscreen-capture-2016-10-27-100315-am-bmpI’ll share your post, and I’ll consider boycotting the store (of course you will) but your spoor continues to disgust me.

fullscreen-capture-2016-10-27-100504-am-bmpOf course you do, you Rainbow Warrior. You only buy half your groceries there and then you get into your fossil fuel powered, greenhouse gas belching car and drive somewhere else to buy the rest. Well done on taking a stand, making a difference and showing PicknPay who’s boss.

So will PicknPay pull Stikeez II? I very much doubt it, although it wouldn’t surprise me if this was to be last Stikeez campaign they run. In that way, maybe the Aquarium wins this one.
Well done. Next stop, Lego? (he said, facetiously).

Look, I understand the Aquarium point of view and I understand why they feel they have to pass comment on this. Do we need more ‘unnecessary’ plastic? No, we don’t. And is this a good opportunity to educate people and perhaps lever their behaviour? Yes, it is.
But are Stikeez really to blame for the world’s (and the oceans’) woes? No.
No, they’re not. They’re just toys and because of that, I’m not even sure that they are symptomatic of those problems.

There are far bigger genuine single-use plastic fish to fry (pun intended) and it would be a bit of an own goal if we got distracted by apparently low-hanging fruit like this.

6 thoughts on “Stikeez & The Sea

  1. Thank you so much for this considered response; some very good points made. We are very glad that in such a short space of time, there has been so much dialogue developing around this issue, and the issue of plastics in general. We don’t want to “silence” any opinion, and believe that empowered consumers can make real waves.

    At the end of the day, there are too many issues to count, and as an organisation we mostly focus on single-use plastic bags, balloons, plastic straws, plastic loops, and cigarette butts. That said, we have found that starting somewhere – anywhere! – is as good a place to start as any; and so we wrote this piece for members of the public who approached us – we wanted to arm them with information, and tools to make their voices heard.

    This kind of conversation builds so much essential awareness, and we’ve witnessed first-hand how lightbulbs go on in our fans’ heads … Perhaps they manage to think about things a little differently, or start to make decisions a little bit differently. Opening their eyes to the world around them and empowering them to make up their own minds about how they wish to proceed in this world – priceless.

    We really appreciate the support and love you have shown us over the years. Long may the conversations last!

  2. Two Oceans Aquarium > Thanks for the response. Yes, as I said, I can see why you had to make a stand on this, and any other response would have been unthinkable, obviously.
    And again, yes, there are SO many problems. I just think there’s a danger that we overlook more serious and more important long-term pollutants just to get angry about a short-term campaign. But using this Stikeez outrage to educate people and try to change behaviour on “real” single-use plastics is a great idea and I’m right behind you on that! 🙂

  3. I am so glad someone else refuses straws at eating establishments and gets that bemused look. I thought we were the only ones who experienced this in the whole country.

  4. ItsStillAyoba > If you are wearing your Walsall stop, there may be other reasons for the odd looks.

  5. Louise De Waal > Thanks for the comment. Glad we found some common ground at least. 🙂
    Will have a look at the link you sent. Cheers.

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