Updated: Feb 4
After many, many years of the devastation that plastic has caused to the environment, it is finally getting the notoriety it needs to change it. Quite simply, plastic is destroying the planet you live in or at least many of the innocent, incredible and amazing creatures in it. I am sure you have seen horrible images of plastic bottles, wrappers and other items that litter the countryside or perhaps the more recent images on the internet of beautiful animals that have been killed due to the plastic humans have carelessly chucked into the environment. Well in this article I am going to look at the problems with plastic, the affect it is having and how you can prevent this negative impact. It is important to understand that it is not just knowing the impact of the these issues but what you can do and easily change in your life to stop this problem.
Globally, around 300 million tons of plastic is produced with only 10% of this is recycled. Each UK household will produce over a tonne of waste mounting to 31 million tons each year. Of all this waste that is produced each year, around 7 million tons of it, unfortunately ends up in the sea. Additionally, it is important to note that there is a lot of waste that is not plastic but the reason plastic is so important is because it does not degrade over time, making it an issue for tens to hundreds of years to come, so I hope you can see the problem. However, if you are still not convinced of the impact plastic is having already here are some key aspects that plastic affect:
Animals and wildlife: As seen in the news and most arguably the sadist affect is those on our wildlife. To put it bluntly animals are being harmed, hurt and killed by plastic. This is having a large effect on marine life and birds, often resulting in a slow and painful death and leads to the many animals downfall in population.
Visual: Plastic is ruining many sites that could be very beautiful. Whether it is the beach, local parks or just around the city, town or village centre the sight of rubbish is not pretty. Additionally, it slows down and harms the environment, which is preventing nature and wildlife to grow and thrive.
Landfill: There is a lot of plastic that cannot be recycled and therefore ends up in landfill. I am not going into the problems with landfills but this is an issue. This is incredibly Important with plastic, as it does not degrade, so even when it is buried it stays in the ground and poisons the land for years to come.
To highlight how serious this issue is I believe a quote from Paul Watson summarises it perfectly “If the ocean die, we die”. It is important to note that we are sharing the planet with thousands of species who have the right to be safe and live freely, as much as we do. Please consider the impacts above to give you the motivation and reasons to be part of the prevention and solution below.
It is common knowledge that prevention is always better then remedy or solution and should be the focus on what you do before plastic becomes a further problem than it already is. To help you with this, here are some key steps for prevention:
Use less – Easy to say I know but again it can be easily done. Reduce what you buy in plastic in all aspects and what you can easily change to stop the use of plastic. This can be by not purchasing packaged fruit and vegetables and using reusable bags, instead of the plastic ones supermarkets provide or looking at using a safety razor to stop the plastic from heads of typical modern razors.
Drop less – Whether you just ‘missed’ the bin, left it right by the bin or just left it on the floor in a location because everyone else was doing it, something many of us have been guilty of, try to stop it. Put your rubbish into a bin, preferably a recycled one to stop litter entering the environment. This is seen a lot on chewing gum and cigarette butts, which although is not plastic still should not be tossed on the floor for future generations to clear up. If there is no bin, take it home.
Recycle – As mentioned above ensure all plastic you use goes into a recycling bin, whether at home, at work or outside. Recycling helps to stop plastic going into landfill and wreaking havoc on the environment and wildlife. In the UK a supermarket, Morrisons, have installed reverse-vending machine that take old empty bottles for recycling and give you 10p in return. I have seen similar strategies in other countries but all help to promote recycling plastic, which is always a great step forward. Also check your local supermarket, which might recycle additional palstic such as soft plastic packaging that often cannot go in your weekly recycle pick up.
Reuse – There are so many items that are made of plastic, which have reusable options, such as bags, cups, mugs, bottles and straws to name a few. All of which is an easy change to make that could save you money over time but also help to stop the production of more plastic and the plastic waste you contribute too.
Zero Waste Stores – Recently, there have been a rise in zero waste stores. These quirky stores usually do not have any packaging but bulk products that you can buy often on weight or number. This requires you to bring your own packages (sustainable and reusable) but like above means less waste is created. Find your local store and start using it for your weekly shops.
Use Biodegradable plastic – A final solution is looking for products that use biodegradable plastic. This ensures that it will not have a permanent affect on the environment, as it degrades in a shorter amount of time. Biodegradable is a last resort but stops the long-term impact of plastic.
Above are the problems with our waste and plastic and how we can reduce and prevent this problem occurring. However, there is still tonnes of waste and plastic already causing damage and devastation. Here is how you can help be part of the solution:
Clean-up – Start a group, get in touch with a group or just go it on your own to start making a difference. Start a day where you can go through your local park, beach, neighbourhood and other neglected areas to pick up rubbish for recycling and proper disposal. Be aware, if this is being done on a large scale you may need to talk to your local authority about collecting the rubbish at the end. Additionally, take precautions, as some waste can be sharp and dangerous.
Donate – There are many people who help to collect plastic and waste for proper recycling and disposal, even if you don’t do it yourself, you can fund those that do. There are many charities and organisations that help to clean up rubbish and plastic in many areas, so donate to one that is near you to help your local area.
Support – Another way you can help is similar to donating but where you buy products that support or are part of cleaning up the environment. This way you get something in return but also contribute to removing plastic from the environment. Although there are many companies that do this, two of the well-known and popular ones are:
Parley Ocean Plastic: They upcycle waste from beaches and coastal communities before it reaches the ocean. This is then used to make products that you can buy, most notably the Adidas Parley range.
4Ocean: Much like the above but more niche, 4Ocean have created a bracelet using recycled materials. By purchasing one of their bracelets, 1 pound of trash will be removed from the ocean and coastline. They also have limited edition bracelets, which help raise awareness for specific subjects such as the one I got for sharks (above). They also have a range of other products all helping to reduce plastic in the ocean and coastline.
I know this is jumping on the bandwagon shouting about plastic and for the most part you may already be doing your bit but this is becoming a bigger issue and needs solving sooner than later. Not only do we need to prevent plastic becoming a bigger issue, it already has become such an issue we need to rectify it. Plastic is drastically affecting our world, as seen in the current news and social media posts. The effect of which is devastating on innocent creatures that are being killed by us through our actions and neglect. If you are going to take anything away from the above, let it be this. Try to avoid plastic as much as possible, when you do use it ensure it is recycled and look for alternatives that do not damage the environment. Finally, I would love to see what you have done to help the fight against the plastic problem, so show me by sharing it on my social media (up in the right hand corner).