Take a look around you right now (go on, do it) and notice all the things made of plastic. There are a lot, right? Plastic is everywhere. From packaging, to cosmetics, to stationary, to containers, the list goes on and on. Since it’s popularisation in the 1940s, plastic has been widely used due to its versatile nature; it can be moulded into pretty much anything. But what is it doing?
Most of us know of the detrimental effects plastic has. Anyone who watched David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II a few months ago would’ve seen the effect plastic is having on our oceans. Contaminating and polluting them. At the current rate, reports have said that by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastics than fish!
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), which lies between Hawaii and California, gives an idea to the extent of the problem. The GPGP is the largest of five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans. It spans an area three times the size of France and has an estimated 1.3 trillion tonnes of plastic within it! Birds and marine life, including turtles, fish, dolphins and sea lions, ingest the plastic which can choke and kill them. They can also get entangled and trapped in it.
Plastics are non-biodegradable, however over time they can break down into tiny particles, and in doing so, release toxic chemicals. These chemicals enter the food chain at the lowest level and have been linked to cancer, infertility, birth defects, and impaired immunity. Single use plastics at the worst. As the name suggests, these plastic products are used just once before being thrown away and most of which end up polluting the oceans.
What you can do to help
Now I’ve bummed you all out, it’s time to give some good news. The good news is, we can all make a difference to combat this issue. It is something we can change. Below are some examples of small changes you can make in your day to day life that will have a real impact.
- Say no to the straw – Plastic straws are put in our drinks wherever we go… bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes. It’s estimated that the UK uses 8.5 billion plastic straws a year. These straws get used just once before being thrown away. So next time you’re out buying a drink, kindly decline the straw. And if you really like having a straw in your drink then invest in a metal one that can be used again and again.
- Reusable Bags – Invest in some durable, reusable bags and remember to bring them when you go shopping. If you make sure to have one on you whenever you’re out, you’ll never need to use a plastic one again. Plus you’ll save money as most shops now charge extra for plastic bags.
- Reusable water bottle/coffee cup – 22 billion single-use plastic water bottles are used globally each year! Invest in a good reusable water bottle and keep it on you whenever you’re out and about. Like the water bottle, invest in a reusable coffee cup. Most single use coffee cups are lined with a plastic film meaning they are difficult to be recycled. If you use a reusable one you’ll save money on drinks too!
- Buy unpackaged foods – Supermarket foods are wrapped in so much unnecessary plastic packaging (especially fruits and vegetables). Next time you’re out food shopping, try and by as many loose, unpackaged goods as you can.
- Clean up after yourself – This is pretty self-explanatory, but the amount of rubbish people litter is really quite shocking. Make sure to leave with what you came with if you’re out picnicking, plus it doesn’t hurt to pick up other’s litter if you see it lying around.
It’s important to remember that a little goes a long way. You may not feel you are making a difference, but the small changes you make all add up. The more we consciously think about the decisions we make, the closer we can get to plastic free oceans and happy marine life.