The effects of plastic on the earth
Our Plastic Reality
We are all finally cottoning on to the fact that plastics are not environmentally friendly. Images on social media of ocean surfaces hidden by plastic food containers and children walking along beaches strewn with man-made bottles and plastic food wraps are highlighting what green scientists have been telling us for a long time. Plastic pollution is damaging our ecosystems, our coastal economies and our planet. If we want to live smart, it doesn’t matter how these plastics enter our environment, once they are in the seas, strong ocean currents carry them to far-flung places and even the most beautiful and precious of environments such as the Artic and Southern Oceans become polluted.
More change is needed, and fast.
With the wealth of information, government intervention and environmental campaigning happening around the world, it is surprising how slowly change surrounding plastics, and plastic products is taking place. For example, Friends of the Earth report that 1 billion black plastic food trays end up in UK landfill each year. These trays are rendered unrecognisable by recycling machines because of the black pigments in them, which serve only to add shine to your ready meal or TV dinner. Supermarkets are being encouraged to provide unwrapped food and plastic-free aisles, but few of us have actually experienced that shopping option and are left to work out our own ways in which to avoid damaging plastics. Plastic bottles are another global issue, billions end up in our oceans, with too few cities adopting the ‘fill your bottle’ filling stations that have seen such success in Auckland and Melbourne.
The Plastic Addiction
With this increased level of consumer understanding, you would imagine that plastics consumption would decrease, but this just isn’t happening. Research by the Imperial College London suggests that in Western Europe plastic consumption increased from 46 kilogrammes per person in 1980 to a massive 139 kilogrammes per person in 2015. Imagine that, 139 kilogrammes just from a single person’s use of plastics and believe it or not, plastic consumption is expected to double again in the next 20 years. This disaster isn’t just waiting to happen; it is happening now.
Although some plastics do come from ocean-based sources (including shipping), 80% come from the land including illegal dumping, coastal littering and industrial activity. Ocean plastics take even longer to biodegrade than those on land, because of lower exposure to light caused by sinking and colonisation by microbes. This has led to estimates that between 7,000 and 236,000 tonnes of plastics are floating on the surface of our oceans. That is 40% of our ocean surfaces – we can’t even begin to imagine what that must look like.
We already put enormous pressure on our ocean ecosystems through overfishing, global warming and acidification. It makes no sense at all to increase this pressure through the ingestion of plastics, the entanglement of unwary marine creatures and the transport of non-native species which can adversely affect marine diversity. A shocking 44% of all seabird species have been registered with plastic either ingested or tangled around their bodies. If this wasn’t bad enough, the presence of plastics in our oceans and on our shorelines is having a direct economic impact through loss of tourism, shipping damage and the knock-on effects of plastics on fish stocks.
‘But what about recycling plastics?’ We hear you ask.
Well, it is true, we are all trying to do our bit.
But, even in our attempts to choose reusable products or recycle plastics, with the little information on recycling plastics available, over 32% of plastic escapes recycling collection and ends up in our environment.
However, hard work pays off. Awareness campaigns are starting to gather momentum with those centred around plastic free lifestyles, coming to the fore.
Small Changes make a Big Difference… a little note to all our lovely readers…
We value the environment, and we know you do too. So, through ecoBip, we have been thinking carefully about what we can do to encourage greener changes and eco-consciousness to all of our viewers.
Support campaigns tackling plastic pollution;
Learn about Plastic Free July, whatever the season.
We are took part in #plasticfreejuly, a 1 month long campaign, bringing awareness to the problem of plastic consumption, the danger of single use plastics and how best to avoid them.
For more information on the campaign, it’s legacy and it’s success, please visit the website, Plastic Free July.