The war on plastic is, potentially, one of the most important fights we have at the moment. The amount of plastic in our environment is causing real problems that are only getting worse.
In a recent BBC documentary, some worrying facts were revealed. Firstly collectively in our households, there are 19,500,000,000 pieces of single-use plastic. This ranges from milk cartons to shampoo bottles and butter tubs to toothbrushes. Secondly, every minute of every day a truckload of plastic is finding its way into our oceans. A large part of these are microplastics which end up in the food chain poisoning the environment. Once in our oceans, these plastics take hundreds of years to breakdown. Finally, a lot of waste we believe is being recycled ends up in waste dumps in poor, developing nations. This is not what we expect when we put our waste in the recycling bin.
In general, society is cottoning on to the fact that we need to reduce our plastic consumption and governments and corporations are starting to take action. For example, the UK government has introduced a charge on single-use plastic bags which has greatly reduced the amount used in fact sales have fallen by 86 percent since the 5p charge was introduced. Seven major retailers issued 7.6 billion single-use bags in 2014 but that figure was down to just over a billion in 2017-18, estimates suggest.
However, even with this recent focus by the government and companies there remains much more that needs to be done.
So what can we, on a personal level, do to fight the war on plastic and to try and improve the situation?
Firstly we can avoid using single-use plastics such as plastic bags with our shopping and bottled water. Even with the 5p charge, 1billion bags are still used each year. We should try and get used to walking around with reusable bags. There are plenty of options out there like foldable bags from Sass and Belle or bags from Rex London which are made from recycled plastic. Along a similar theme are Wyatt and Jack who create bags from recycled deckchair canvas, broken inflatables, and old bouncy castles. They have a project called inflatable amnesty whereby you can send in old, broken inflatables so they can turn them into bags. This is much more environmentally friendly than putting them in landfill.
Bottled water is another big contributor to the waste going into our oceans. the average UK adult uses 150 plastic water bottles each year. In total, 7.7 billion single-use plastic bottles are bought each year and it is estimated that 44% of these are not recycled. A simple solution is to buy a reusable water bottle and to refill from the tap. Not only is it better for the environment it is also a lot cheaper in the long run (after the initial investment in a reusable bottle).
The above two things are relatively easy to accomplish without much change to your everyday lifestyle. Should you wish to do even more then there are more drastic options. Companies such as Plastics Free and Eco Vibe offer a wide variety of everyday products, with one difference, they don’t come with plastic packaging. From washing up soap bars and coconut husk scrubbers to shampoo bars and beeswax food wraps, this is a twist on everyday items, done in an environmentally friendly way.
You could also donate to the Ocean Cleanup Project, this charity aims to clean up the plastics in our Oceans by using innovative machines. They have also created a new device called the interceptor which is placed into rivers and aims to catch plastics before they make it into the ocean.
If we all try and make a few little changes in our daily life then hopefully, together we can win the war on plastic.