You’ve probably heard about single use plastics a great deal in the news recently. This is due to a push towards addressing the global plastic pollution crisis; but what exactly does this mean and why are single use plastics such a bad thing?
Single use plastics are, quite simply, any plastic item that is used only once. This includes items such as plastic straws, packaging, and bottles that are designed to be used and then disposed of. Although these items can be recycled, they are often not. For example, each year an average of 35 million plastic bottles will be used nationally, however 16 million of these will not be recycled. Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose meaning that this throw away culture causes major implications on the natural world.
There is currently an estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic circulating our oceans, the equivalent of a truck full of plastic being dumped into the ocean every single minute, with a ‘plastic island’ floating in the Pacific that is larger than France! Not only this, but it is predicted that, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish. This has a knock on effect on our marine life; with 44% of all seabird species, 22% of wales, dolphins, and porpoises, and all sea turtle species being documented with plastic in or around their bodies. Plastic is deadly to these animals, and around 1 million sea birds, and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from oceanic plastic pollution.
So, what can you do to help? Say NO to disposable plastics. A shift in consumer behaviour is the key way that we, as individuals, can make an impact.
Bring your own shopping bags with you; between 5 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used each year around the world, a reusable bag helps to reduce this number. Reusable bags are also often more sturdy and can fit more of your shopping in!
Do you find that you regularly get take away coffee? Bring a reusable cup! Currently, less than 1 in 400 coffee cups are recycled in the UK due to a lack of recycling infrastructure in many coffee shops; a reusable cup reduces your contribution to this, plus some cafes even offer a discount when you bring your own cup; it’s a win win!
You don’t have to make a dramatic lifestyle change to reduce your plastic use and be the change you want to see in the world.