The plastic pollution of our world’s water sources is not only harming marine life but there could also be long term effects on our body from ingesting plastic particles in our food. As a collective we need to take action to reduce and ultimately this. Below are some ways you can do your part.
The National Geographic’s instagram page has plenty of eye-opening posts which you can like or tag your friends in to raise awareness. Photographs shot by Rena Effendi for Nat Geo in the Balkans showed countless plastic waste thrown into the Erenik river in Kosovo. A scene not entirely dissimilar to a trip I took to Sicilly. Above is the natural beauty of Imerese, Sicilly and below is the view in any direction filled with washed up litter.
What Exactly is the Problem?
- Marine life such as seabirds, dolphins and turtles are being harmed as the ocean’s ecosystems have millions of tonnes of plastic waste which can be mistaken for food or trap creatures
- Turtles and Whales can’t tell the difference between plastic bags and jellyfish, once consumed they block their digestive tract which usually results in death
- Flushing cotton buds and other plastics down toilets have led them to enter the marine ecosystem, it’s estimated that 1/3 of UK caught fish have plastic in them
- In the UK and many other countries we are heavily reliant on plastic from cooking, engineering and retail
- Even if you recycle all the plastic you use a good proportion of that never makes it and is deposited in landfill
“The scourge of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans must be tackled”
Sir David Attenborough
In the UK, there is a government petition website which you can sign online for issues that are important to you. I recently signed a petition “The UK Government to introduce a ban on all non-recyclable packaging from 2022” because I would much rather have my food packaged in sustainable packaging that naturally biodegrades. I think a great deal of younger people aren’t aware of this site and checking every once in a while will keep you politically and environmentally aware. Any petitions with more than 100,000 signatures will be debated by the government and you’ll receive an email updating you on the outcome. The outcome of the above petition is outlining the government’s 25 year plan to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste and the introduction of a ‘Deposit Return Scheme’ for single-use drinks containers. Whilst petitions may not always be effective it applies pressure for action from our government.
Most people know they should recycle more or make better environmental choices but some choose convenience or believe that if they do, they as an individual won’t impact the problem. A lot of this is a social problem, by sharing or liking a post on social media, using your platform to show you use a reusable coffee cup or just simple acts it raises awareness of the global plastic problem. Advertising capitalises on the way we act socially, an individual is much more likely to do something they see others doing. Thats why in most adverts you’ll see someone ringing a company for PPI or watch someone be tripped and then call injury lawyers. It’s how are brains are wired. So your small action of putting your supermarket veg in a brown bag instead of a plastic one will affect other shoppers around you, it might be most effective than you’d initially thought. There are many documentaries, mostly from the BBC about this problem. Click on the links below to read articles and watch videos:
Ocean ‘plastic tide’ violates the law
All statistics are from the BBC (click here)
- In 2015 there was 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste of which only 9% was recycled and 79% has accumulated in the environment
- As of 2018, 8.3 billion tonnes of virgin plastic has been produced
- It’s estimated that by 2050 there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in the environment
- 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute
- There were 480 billion plastic bottles sold in 2016 with less than 7% turned into new bottles
- It takes 450 years for a single plastic bottle to degrade
- In the Uk, there are 718 pieces of litter per 100m stretch of beach, the vast majority of which are plastic and polystyrene items, 20% of the 718 was food and drink related
Schemes to Help the Environment (UK)
- The UK is introducing a deposit-return scheme in an effort to reduce waste
- A non-profit organisation called Ocean Clean-up tackling a collection of plastic waste at the North-Pacific gyre later this year
- Single-use plastics such as cotton buds and plastic drinking straws could be banned in the next year to reduce the output of plastic into oceans
“The world’s oceans are becoming a ‘toxic soup’ of industrial waste and plastic”
Sir David Attenborough
Reducing your Plastic Consumption
There are numerous ways to reduce your use of all plastics but primarily single-use plastics. The ways listed below are simply suggestions – some are easier than others but it just depends how much effort you want to devote to this problem.
- Instead of buying plastic toothbrushes that get thrown out every couple of months, not to mention the packaging that you throw away after ripping it open (we’re all guilty) you could switch to a bamboo toothbrush with charcoal bristles. Charcoal is a natural teeth whitener so both you and the environment wins. Or you could switch to an electric toothbrush, most of the time it arrives in a cardboard box so thats a win for the packaging, when you throw away the head which is 1/3 of the size of a disposable toothbrush theres a little bit less plastic in the world’s water.
- You could switch out your single use plastic bags for a canvas shopper or tote bag. I personally have a black mesh string bag and it was the best under £2 purchase I’ve made. I’ve also found its much easier to remember your canvas bags or even multiple use shopping bags if you leave them in the boot of your car.
- Supermarkets. When you go to the supermarket and pick up a small plastic bag for your individual items of fruit and veg there are sometimes but I appreciate not always brown paper bags you can use instead. If eventually everyone uses the brown paper ones they won’t be a demand for the plastic ones so supermarkets will not buy them for economical reasons. Sometimes if you run out of shopper bags and have a really heavy item or items, there are often cardboard boxes under the end of tills which you can ask to use, and then rip them down once you’re home and use them to help start your fireplace or log burner.
- Ask for recyclable packaging. If you’re a big online shopper like myself then its hard not to notice the ridiculous amount of packaging send with your items. It’s not quite as bad if you order more and receive a box but 9/10 the packaging ends up in the black bin. Not all companies will do this but most large ones will send your items in recyclable packaging if you request it, the only reason they don’t make it across their stores is again because its not economical, but if demand increases enough then we’ll be seeing it a lot more.
- Still talking about clothes. A lot of clothes have synthetic fibres such as nylon in them whilst I’m not suggesting you get rid of all your clothes that aren’t all natural, its good to be aware of this when buying them. Usually the cheaper and less quality clothes are completely synthetic, good materials like cotton and linen which are nicer on our skin are more expensive. Sometimes its better to buy a slightly more expensive linen shirt which will last for years vs. a cheap semi-sheer one that will only last 2 months before the seams start to go. The cost per wear is much lower on quality items, so not only are you getting better clothes but the environment doesn’t suffer. In general, ZARA does good ranges of ecologically sourced cotton etc…