As many of you will know, one of the biggest environmental problems right now is plastic pollution, specifically in our oceans! Plastics do not go away and what is scary is the fact that over 300 million tonnes of plastic is being produced globally every year and half of this is for single use! Furthermore, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the ocean and onto our beaches every single year… and if action isn’t taken, this figure will continue to rise, as society has produced more plastic in the last ten years than during the whole of the last century! The average plastic bottle takes about 450 years to completely break down, meaning the plastic waste of today will be floating around the ocean or laying on the sea bed for generations.
The effect of plastics on ocean wildlife is absolutely awful. For example, turtles choke on or get entangled in big pieces of plastic, smaller pieces fill the stomachs of seabirds leaving no room for food to feed their young, whilst microplastics (which are defined as particles less than 5mm across) are contaminated further by toxic chemicals and pesticides and are then consumed by a range of marine animals such as corals and zooplankton, which ultimately end up entering the food chain!
Thankfully this crisis has been at the forefront of discussion recently, with help from environmental charities and programmes such as Blue Planet II, as big corporations and Governments have been called upon to take action! The UK Government’s 25 year environmental plan commits the UK to “eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042”, but I think as individuals we need to and CAN help now by making some simple life changes.
Firstly, why not find out what your plastic footprint is by using this calculator. Once you know how you are using plastics, think about how you can reduce your usage. I have come up with a list of 10 easy ideas:
- Carry a reusable bag around with you for those unexpected shopping trips
- Always use a reusable water bottle
- Take your own travel mug to coffee shops for the barista to fill up
- Reduce the use of sandwich bags by putting food straight into a lunchbox or Bento box
- Ask for ‘no straw’ when ordering drinks
- Use real cutlery and plates instead of disposable ones at parties
- Swap your plastic toothbrush for an eco-friendly bamboo one
- Stop using cosmetics that contain exfoliating micro-beads
- Avoid excessive food packaging by buying fresh and shopping wisely
- Recycle! Take a little extra time to check packaging and break it down properly for the different types of recycling
Do you have any other tips or suggestions for how we can all individually reduce our plastic usage?