We now know that plastic is not only extremely harmful to our environment, but it’s extremely harmful: plastic is choking our oceans and killing wildlife.
Countries and cities around the world are banning plastic use and the call for the end of single-use plastics is at an all-time high. Companies are also beginning to implement measures to reduce plastic use and stores such as Iceland and Ikea have introduced plastic bans that come into effect shortly.
While some governments and organisations are doing their part to reduce plastic use, but as everyday consumers, it is vital for us to understand why we should aim to eliminate use of plastics as far as possible.
The facts are sobering and underline the need for our action to reduce plastic use and therefore plastic production:
“Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide, that’s equivalent to the weight of more than 800,000 Eiffel Towers and yet only 9% of it has been recycled;
Three quarters of beach litter worldwide is plastic. According to National Geographic Magazine around 73% of all beach litter is plastic. The litter includes filters from cigarette butts, bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, and polystyrene containers;
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. Yet less than half of the bottles purchased in 2016 were recycled, with just 7% of those collected made into new bottles, with 93% ending up in landfill sites or the ocean;
Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute. This might seem like an unbelievable number, but according to Eco-watch between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually. New Yorkers alone use 23 billion plastic bags every year;
Bans on plastic bags have already proved to be extremely effective in the countries that have them. In the UK, for example, the introduction of a 5p plastic bag charge introduced in 2015 has brought about an 83% reduction in plastic bag use;
Plastic kills more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year. According to the United Nations ingesting plastic kills an estimated 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals each year.
Research from Plymouth University found that close to 700 species of marine life are facing extinction due to the increase of plastic pollution. Additionally, more than 90% of all birds and fish are believed to have plastic particles in their stomach, because plastic breaks up into tiny pieces in the sea, which are then consumed by fish and other sea animals;
The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year. That works out at about 100 bits of microplastic every meal. A team of UK-based researchers put petri dishes with sticky surfaces next to dinner plates in three homes in the UK. After just 20 minutes, the dishes accumulated an average of 14 microplastics.”
We must all help by making relatively small changes to our lifestyles. We can carry reusable bottles instead of buying bottled water and reusable coffee cups.
We can also carry a shopping bag instead of purchasing one at the till. It’s easier to sit back and not do anything, but we can’t afford to do that. There are things we can do. We can refuse plastic drinking straws and disposable cutlery we can also choose to buy our fruit and vegetables with minimal or no plastic packaging.
We must all work towards diminishing the use of small plastic bags that contain food, plastic containers and carrier bags. The less we use those, the more manufacturers will look to produce plastic free, environmentally friendly products.