We all hear plenty of news in the media about plastic pollution – but just what is the problem with plastic? It’s easy to become immune to the negative news stories because we read them so often, but in reality, should we be taking more notice of the impact plastic waste is having on our planet, so that we can do something about it?
As one individual person, you may feel there’s nothing much you can do, but as a consumer, you have the power to change your own shopping habits to embrace more eco-friendly practices. If everyone changed their purchasing and lifestyle habits to reduce excess plastic use, as a group, consumers could make all the difference.
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What are the main concerns?
The main problem with plastic is that it’s polluting the world’s oceans, killing wildlife. Scientists have revealed a shocking five trillion pieces of plastic waste currently infest our planet’s oceans. Around one million sea birds and 100,000 marine creatures die every year as a result of being tangled in plastic.
More fish and birds die as a result of eating plastic. Fish can accidentally ingest small plastic pieces as they feed, while seabirds have been known to pick up plastic pellets mistaking them for food.
Veteran naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough highlighted this problem in his TV series, Blue Planet, where seabirds were filmed foraging for food for their young and returning with plastic. Not great news, as this can be poisonous.
As plastic can take hundreds of years to disintegrate, the same pieces of waste can kill several generations of wildlife over the centuries. This is a sobering thought that should make everyone think twice about leaving a plastic food bag, or drinks can packaging, on the beach after a day out. One thoughtless act that takes seconds to commit can have an impact that lasts for hundreds of years!
What plastic is found on beaches?
The main types of waste found on beaches are the single-use plastics that people tend to carelessly discard. These include fast food packaging, plastic drinks bottles, straws, cutlery, drinks cartons, crisp packets and similar items associated with snacking outdoors.
Plastic waste from fishing is also a common problem on beaches. Studies show about 20% of plastic waste comes from old fishing gear. This can include nets, lines, floats and other items discarded from boats. The waste comes from both commercial fishing operations and individual anglers.
Industrial processes create plastic waste in the shape of nurdles, which are small plastic pellets used in the manufacture of other items. Nurdles are shipped in bulk all over the world and have been found in the ocean and also in rivers.
How can we reduce plastic waste?
People may think the plastic problem is so bad that they don’t bother trying to make a difference. On the contrary, People Power is an important tool that can have a significant effect.
Every person should make a conscious effort to use less plastic, or to make sure the plastic they use is recycled properly. Environmentalists are urging consumers to stop buying products containing single-use plastics. In addition, start recycling, whether at home or at your workplace.
Go on a beach or riverbank litter pick in your local area. Plenty are being organised by green groups, such as Surfers Against Sewage, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on cleaning up the UK’s beaches.
Anglers are becoming aware of the problems being caused by discarded plastic fishing equipment. The industry is looking into alternatives, such as fishing line recycling schemes, whereby the plastic coating from old lines is recycled.
Efforts are also being made to find alternatives to plastic spools, although the challenge is changing people’s views and ensuring they follow the eco-friendly angling guidelines.
Are there alternatives?
Many businesses and organisations are trying to find a solution to single-use plastics to ensure we follow sustainable practices.
Plastic straws are being phased out by many fast food chains, restaurants and manufacturers, as they are one of the biggest single-use plastics on the planet. In the UK alone, scientists estimate an incredible 8.5 billion straws are used each year – alternatives include paper and metal straws.
One of the biggest movements is to stamp out the use of plastic drinks bottles. Instead, people are encouraged to use water bottles that are refillable.
Even major music festivals have cottoned on to the damage being caused by plastic rubbish. In 2017, the rubbish left by 200,000 festival-goers at Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, near Pilton, cost a staggering £785,000 to remove. The damage to the site (a working farm) was one of the main reasons why the festival wasn’t held in 2018.
When Glastonbury returned in June 2019, plastic drinks bottles weren’t available on the site, for the first time in history. Festival-goers were asked to bring their own reusable bottles. They were able to refill them free of charge at the many taps on-site, provided by Bristol Water.
Sir David Attenborough, now aged 93, made a surprise appearance at Glastonbury on the Pyramid Stage to highlight the issues of plastic in the ocean.
He was greeted by rapturous applause, as he thanked the crowd for reducing plastic use and spoke of the “marvellous creatures”, such as the birds and mammals, who live on earth. The topic of pollution and how it’s affecting the planet is the subject of his new documentary, Seven Worlds One Planet.
Will you help solve the plastic problem?
As with every eco-friendly alternative, it’s a case of encouraging people to follow sustainable practices and make a change to their lifestyle habits. One simple thing that everyone can do is recycle, whether at home, or in the workplace.
Another thing we can do is to shop responsibly by supporting the supermarkets and shops that are following responsible practices.
Have you ever asked yourself?
Would you be prepared to pay more to go green? Have you ever wondered why eco-friendly products are more expensive than the regular supermarket range? After all, green products should use fewer resources and generate lower waste. They should use less energy, water and materials to produce.
In theory, it should cost less – so why does it cost more? Analysts say the demand for green products isn’t as high as traditional products at the moment, because they’re a newer concept. Sustainable materials can cost more to grow and manufacture.
Ironically, the cost of recycling can be more than cost of virgin materials – so would this influence your decision to go green? Would you pay more for items if you knew you were helping the environment? Which supermarkets and brands do you consider are doing their bit for the planet and which are failing miserably?
Psydro is asking you to voice your opinions on the use of plastics via our customer reviews platform – you can help in the quest to save our planet by advising others where to shop and where to avoid! Together, we can make a difference.