Plastic Pollution Problem
The sea is full of plastic. Trillions of minute particles that permeate every ocean on our planet. I’m certain that most of you know what a huge problem this is, and I’m pretty sure that we all realise that we could each be doing more to help tackle it. I’m not pointing the finger in blame, I’m just as guilty as anyone else, but one thing I’ve pledged to do for National Marine Week is to further look at where I can reduce my use of plastic and I’d love for you to join me.
Whilst I do tend to take my own drink bottles out with me or buy things in cans, there are certainly times when I’m out and about and reach for something that came in a single use plastic wrapper and I know I’m not the only one. More often than not immediate satisfaction wins out when we’re hungry or thirsty and because we don’t immediately see the consequences of our buying habits, it’s all too easy to turn a blind eye. That desperately needs to change.
100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.
It’s time for us all to wake up and take some responsibility. Recent research predicts that “if current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt (metric tons) of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.” (source). Each Briton creates a staggering 177KG amount of packaging waste each year, and with it estimated that by 2050 the oceans will contain more plastic than fish in weight (source), we have no choice but to start doing something about it.
It affects every single one of us. 1 in every 3 fish caught for human consumption now contains plastic, but even if you don’t eat fish you still rely on the sea. For example, did you know that half of the earth’s oxygen is provided by ocean plants? Scientists believe that phytoplankton (a tiny plant that lives near the surface) is responsible from anywhere between 50-85% of the oxygen on our planet. That means you can thank it for practically every breath you take, and whilst you might survive without eating fish, I think we’d all be pretty hard pushed to survive without breathing. Just how long can you hold your breath for anyway?
Not only that, plastic chemicals are in our bodies. BPA, one of the chemicals in many plastic containers, has been linked to a range of health problems, so even if you’re really selfish you should be paying attention. In the human body, BPA behaves in a way that can disrupt your hormone, and babies are even being born pre-contaminated (source).
So how can you help?
- Do a #2MinuteBeachClean. The more often you can do this the better, of course, and you don’t have to limit it to the beach! Every time I leave the house I try to remember to take gloves and a bag to dispose of rubbish in. You can also volunteer at local beach clean ups.
- Buy your own reusable coffee cup and refuse to use single-use ones. They may look like cardboard, but these cups aren’t recyclable and as a nation, we are currently throwing away 10,000 of them every two minutes. That’s 2.5 billion per year! (source)
- Refuse as many single-use plastics as possible. Condiment sachets, drinking straws, cutlery, water bottles, toiletries, snacks, it all comes in plastic packaging that never breaks down.
- Seek out alternatives to the plastic you rely on. Many products are available unpackaged or packaged in more environmentally friendly materials.
- When you really feel like you can’t find a plastic free alternative, opt for those that can be recycled locally and remember to do so. Thankfully where I am in Cornwall they’ve recently started recycling far more plastics than they previously did, but if this isn’t the case near you why not campaign to make it so? This isn’t perfect, as a recycled product is still adding to the increased production of single use plastics.
- Switch out your toothbrush. We (hopefully) all brush our teeth, and most of us don’t think twice about buying a plastic toothbrush because that’s all the supermarkets offer. There are alternatives though, and many companies now offer bamboo brushes that have no problem biodegrading.
- Join the Surfers Against Sewage campaign for a bottle deposit system. Add your name to the petition and write to your MP.
- Use social media powerfully. Name and shame companies into changing their unsustainable practices. Bad press isn’t good for business! In the link above, Surfers Against Sewage suggest taking photos of the plastic waste you find and using that to lobby the brands whose products are littering our planet into supporting the bottle deposit scheme.
- Boycott brands that refuse to change. We have more power than we realise. Every single time you spend money on a brand you are voting for them and consenting to their practices. If you don’t like the way a product spends money, why add to their profit? It’s your cash they’re spending!
- Take part in The Plastic Tide, an innovative citizen science project that you can contribute to from the comfort of your own home. By clicking on rubbish in their drone photographs you’ll help to teach the program how to better detect plastic pollution.