As humans, we leave our footprints wherever we go. Be it our carbon or ecological footprint - everything we do on this planet has a consequence. Sadly, plastic pollution is one of them. And it's a big problem, especially for our oceans.
Plastic is everywhere. If you're reading this on your phone - chances are your phone is protected by a plastic phone case. Reading this on a laptop? Your keyboard, track pad and mouse are probably plastic. As well as your headphones, your monitor, your glasses and sunglasses, parts of your clothing, your shoes and the container you're eating out of. It's everywhere and it's unavoidable. But what happens when we don't want it anymore and throw it away? While we hope most of it is sent off for recycling or even upcycling, a lot of it ends up in landfill where it will take hundreds of years to degrade. Then a lot of it ends up loose in the world, and ultimately in our waterways and our oceans.
So how can you help reduce the amount of plastic polluting our oceans? Here's our 6 easy steps:
- Carry a reusable bottle - firstly, plastic bottles contain chemicals that can seep into your drinks. Ew. Nobody wants that. It's not yet clear how harmful these chemicals are but is bottled water really worth it? It would be better for your health to carry a stainless steel bottle which is reusable as well as durable! Secondly, 35.8m plastic bottles are used every day, but only 19.8m are recycled each day. That's a staggering amount of unnecessary plastic left behind!
- Carry a reusable coffee cup - we're a nation of caffeine addicts and an incredible 7 million coffee cups are used everyday in the UK! Many of us will throw these coffee cups in the recycling bin, but did you know that most of them are in fact not recyclable? This is because polyethylene is used in the cups to keep them water tight. It would be much greener to carry an alternative - your own reusable coffee cup. They come in all designs, shapes and sizes and can make you look so much more cool on your morning commute ;)
- Buy loose fruit and veg - fruit and veg are naturally wrapped in their own sturdy skins designed to protect themselves, so why do we need to individually wrap these items in sheets of plastic? You'll be sure to see it commonly done in supermarkets but is it necessary? Packaged fruit and vegetables also come with the issue of food waste. Have you ever gone shopping for a courgette only to find you HAVE to buy 3? Often, these unwanted extras end up in the bin which contributes to the UK's ever growing food waste problem!
- Say no to plastic straws - a guarantee find in the waste on any beach are plastic straws. From tiny pointless cocktail straws to super big bendy ones - they are one of the most hazardous litter substances in the ocean. In 2015, a horrifying video of a turtle with a plastic straw being removed from it's nose went viral. While heartbreaking to watch, it raised awareness of a very dangerous and real threat to our marine life. If you must drink from a straw, there are such things as paper or even titanium alternatives.
- Say no to disposable cutlery - it poses much of the same problem as straws and other plastic litter and like most of these there are alternatives. Vegware make catering disposables that are low carbon, made from renewable or recycled materials, and all can be recycled along with food waste.
- Carry a reusable bag - plastic bags are a nightmare. Since the 5p charge of plastic bags came into effect in the UK back in 2015, the number of bags used has gone down by 80% which is equal to 9 billion fewer plastic bags! Next time you go shopping, take your own! We all have old plastic bags hiding in cupboards at home - so use it and reuse it. Then use it again. Take a tote bag, or a rucksack or a gym bag! All of these are less likely to split on the way to the car too.
But hey! Here's an even better suggestion: why not take part in a beach clean? It's a great excuse to take your friends, family or dog down to the coast for a day out. Along with your picnic and windbreakers, bring along a few rubbish bags and collect any rubbish you find. Do be careful though and wear some protective gloves as some plastic debris can be dangerous, they can have sharp edges and it's not uncommon to find used needles mixed in with a pile of old seaweed and sweet wrappers.
The local wildlife will definitely thank you. They're most at risk from plastic waste which often ends up being washed onto our beaches. According to research, 700 marine species are threatened by plastic debris. Fish mistake small pieces of plastic as food. Sea birds will scavenge for food along shorelines and eat almost everything. Whales have been killed from eating plastic bags and turtles have been found to inhaled plastic straws - it's horrible to think about but it's a very real problem.
You can also join a group of likeminded people for a Great British Beach clean! Marine Conservation Society are passionate about protecting marine wildlife and our beaches with their Beach Watch programme. We teamed up with MCS to clean one of our nearest beaches in Portishead but you can find your nearest beach clean event here.
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