Plastic. A word that, in this modern day, has become stigmatized with connotations of waste and destruction. This transformation of the word displays the progress and development society has made. We have acknowledged the negatives of plastic and the dire consequences the resource has on the planet. We now just have to act upon it.
This is not to say that we don’t need plastic and that we can simply go plastic-free at the drop of a hat, but there are many ways in which we must drastically reduce our plastic consumption and in doing so save our oceans and wildlife.
The biggest problem with plastic is that it is non-biodegradable, therefore it remains in our environment and pollutes it for hundreds of years to come. This means that one quick action of littering causes a lifetime of pollution, as it will not degrade. So the first rule is absolutely no littering! But that is just the beginning step in how we should decrease our plastic pollution.
It is estimated that every year, around 8 million tons of plastic waste from coastal nations pollute our oceans. National Geographic advise that a shocking 73% of beach litter is plastic. The sight of this debris floating amongst our sea life is devastating, however, it is just the tip of the iceberg. Once plastic enters the oceans it is exposed to numerous elements (sun, waves and wind) which eventually break the plastic down into tiny particles known as microplastics. These particles could be so small that we wouldn’t even see them but their impact is huge.
The plastic pollution in the oceans has become so extensive that it is now found in the stomachs of 90% of seabirds and over half of the stomachs of the world’s sea turtles, but it does not stop there. It has been reported that some 700 species of marine animals have eaten or become entangled in plastic. This figure is made even more shocking when considering that over 40% of plastic is only used once before being thrown away! For that one time use, we are risking numerous marine animal lives and endangering species that otherwise would be thriving. If these facts don’t inspire you to make a change, I don’t know what will.
How We Can Help?
As previously stated, a simple and easy way to help reduce plastic pollution is to not litter and always try to recycle whatever materials you can. It is estimated that of 26 million tons of waste generated in the UK, only 12 million tons is recycled. The rest is sent to landfill.
Single Use Plastics
Recycling is great but we can reduce our plastic pollution even further if we focus on single use plastics. Often these single use items can be avoided, all it takes is becoming mindful of what we are using and whether there are more environmentally friendly alternatives.
We are lucky enough now to have eco-friendly shops and stations around that can help us with this cause. Instead of buying a bottle of washing-up liquid every time you run out, try taking that bottle to your local eco-friendly shop and refilling it. Not only are you just paying for the washing-up liquid (not the bottle), you are also avoiding the use of another plastic bottle. This can be done for all sorts of day-to-day items such as shampoo, shower gel, soap, etc.
I am lucky enough to have one of these stores in my town, however, that is not always the case. If you don’t, then why not look for alternatives in the bigger supermarkets. Instead of buying a new bottle of hand-soap, try looking for a refillable pouch. These pouches, although still made with plastic use a lot less, and means you can re-use your previous bottle. Instead of buying the pre-bagged fruit and veg, try buying them loose and eliminate the need for plastic at all. These small actions reduce the demand for single-use products and eventually might make the manufacturers focus on producing more environmentally friendly products in the first place.
It is not just bottles that we can apply this to. Instead of buying toilet paper that comes wrapped in a plastic casing, opt for the brand that uses a paper covering. When you next replace your toothbrush choose one that has the handle made from bamboo instead. Stop using plastic straws and cutlery. Always use reusable bags when shopping and investigate online what other products you would happily try and swap to reduce plastic. You can even buy re-usable, non-plastic nappies and sanitary products which are a massive contribution to our plastic consumption (one pack of menstrual pads is the equivalent of 4 plastic bags!).
Another easy and free way to help is dedicate some of your time to litter picking. Even if it is 10 minutes a week. If everyone helped to clean our beaches and wild areas then we would be stopping the litter from getting lost in our oceans and consumed by our wildlife.
These are not the only ways in which we can each make a difference but they are some small changes we can all make in striving to become more environmentally friendly. So grab your reusable coffee cup and take a (litter picking) walk. The current plastic pollution statistics are scary but it is not too late. We can all make a difference!