If you look around your house, your work place, your school or college, you will see hundreds of items made from plastic. Plastic is durable and lightweight and cheap to produce. Single-use plastic lead the way for convenience and so it’s popularity is understandable, or at least it was until we discovered how it is damaging our planet.
Some plastics take so long to degrade they will outlive us all and it has been projected that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. Other plastics are simply burned, causing toxic gas to be released into the atmosphere. Some plastics are recycled however this accounts for only 9% of the plastic waste we produce.
Just think about that for a second. We know plastic damages the atmosphere and is littering our seas and oceans, damaging our fish and wildlife, and ultimately ending up in our water sources, but only 9% of our plastic is recycled. Crazy, right?
With that in mind, and in the run up to Earth Day, we’re looking at what can be done to curb our plastic pollution and what is already being done around the world.
Theresa May has today announced that she is pushing for single-use plastic to be banned in England next year. The ban would include cotton buds, straws, and most you would use once and then throw away. England has already banned microbeads from some products and imposed a 5p plastic bag charge in order to try and cut down on plastic waste. And for the most part it seems to have worked with 9bn fewer plastic bags being distributed since the introduction of the ban.
The United States of America
Although not the whole country, there are some US cities who have taken a stand against single use plastic, particularly plastic bags. San Francisco was the first city to ban plastic shopping bags and plastic water bottles a few years later.
Morocco used to be the second largest consumer of plastic bags (the first being the United States), until they banned plastic bags entirely. This caused many to stock up any bags they could get their hands on, which kind of defeats the purpose! This showed how important it is for people to understand the effect plastic is having on the planet. Plastic bags were such a common place item that people thought they couldn’t live without them!
The Indian state of Karnataka banned all kinds of single-use plastic. Not just stopping at carrier bags but plastic plates and cutlery, cups, cling film, and a whole host more. This is probably one of the most extensive bans to date but illegal plastic continues to be seized, again highlighting the need for education on plastic pollution.
In your home
So that’s what is happening on a massive scale but what can each of us be doing in our own homes?
Recycling is a good first step. If you are not sure how to go about this or you are not sure what recycling options are available in your area, get in touch with your local council or city/county government. This small change could really make a difference to that 9% we were talking about earlier!
Be more aware of the amount of plastic you are using. Especially single-use plastic. It’s easy to lose track of the items we use, especially when we are so used to them. Take your own carrier bags to the store, don’t use a straw in your drink, carry a refillable water bottle instead of buying a new bottle each day. These small actions add up!
If you are not sure how much plastic you use, have a look at this calculator and see where you can cut down: https://www.earthday.org/plastic-calculator/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=a34bd9ba-8838-4088-898f-e05da82897cf
What do you do to curb your plastic waste? Do you have any tips? Let us know in the comments!