It is quite daunting thinking about life without plastic. It is everywhere and you might not be able to imagine one without it. But people are finally starting to realise that we have a problem. Plastic pollution is reality and it is affecting our planet, where our children and children’s children will grow up.
It has long been known, but for majority of people unknown, that microplastics in our oceans outnumber the stars in our galaxy – by 500 times! Just think about that for a second. This is plastic waste, synthetic fibres and beads found in personal hygiene products. It is a fact that they harm marine life, and eventually humans too, via consumption of sea food, tap water or other foods. The risk to people is still not known, but there are concerns that microplastics can accumulate toxic chemicals and that the tiniest could enter bloodstreams.
Let’s start with some quick facts to win you over, or at least have you finish reading this article. Because it could save the planet. This list is courtesy of Earth Day Organisation. (scroll down to get to the list of what you can do to help)
About 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean annually. Of those, 236,000 tons are microplastics – tiny pieces of broken-down plastic smaller than your little fingernail
There are five massive patches of plastic in the oceans around the world. These huge concentrations of plastic debris cover large swaths of the ocean; the one between California and Hawaii is the size of the state of Texas
Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans
The amount of plastic in the ocean is set to increase tenfold by 2020
By 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish (by weight)
Plastic is found in the ocean as far as 11km deep, meaning synthetic fibers have contaminated even the most remote places on Earth
Many marine organisms can’t distinguish common plastic items from food. Animals who eat plastic often starve because they can’t digest the plastic and it fills their stomachs, preventing them from eating real food
The likelihood of coral becoming diseased increases from 4% to 89% after coming in contact with marine plastic. It also damages the skin of coral, allowing infection. Coral reefs are home to more than 25% of marine life.
There is more plastic than natural prey at the sea surface of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which means that organisms feeding at this area are likely to have plastic as a major component of their diets. For instance, sea turtles by-caught in fisheries operating within and around the patch can have up to 74% (by dry weight) of their diets composed of ocean plastics.
Many fish humans consume, including brown trout, cisco, and perch, have at one time or another, ingested plastic microfibers.
So shall we get to the part where we list what YOU can do to help our planet?
#1 Buy REUSABLE canvas bags – and make sure you carry one of them at all times at the bottom of your bag, that you have one in your car and one in your buggy’s basket. Refuse plastic bags when in shops, to carry your shopping home in. Also skip those small flimsy plastic bags they want you to put fruit and alike in! You don’t need them!
#2 REFUSE plastic straws – this one is easy in theory. But the hard bit is for you to remember to mention it when you make the initial order. As they are quick at putting one into your drink before you have the chance to say No Thank You.
#3 REFUSE single use water bottles. Invest in reusable water bottle (preferably not plastic!) and fill it up each morning, one for each member of the family. Even though it says that it is recyclable and it might make you feel good, plastic can only be recycled so many times, and it will still never leave the surface os earth. Horrible fact: Humans buy about 1,000,000 plastic bottles per minute in total, 91% which ARE NOT recycled (source). You might as well invest in a reusable coffee/tea cup too. Most coffee cups are not recyclable and those plastic lids definitely are not.
#4 REDUCE the amount of food you buy in single use plastic bags/containers etc. A lot of fruit comes pre-packed, but you can as easily choose to pick and weigh your fruit yourself. Also when it comes to baby food. Reduce the single use pre-made packages, and if you really need to, buy the glass jars (which can then be reused for your home made baby food).
#5 RECYCLE more. Don’t be lazy. Read at the back of all packaging and 100% recycle the ones which says you can. That is the least you can do after having bought it. Some yoghurt pots might not be recyclable, but often the paper sleeve is – remove it and recycle just that! All wine/beer/soft drink bottles, all paper from the mail, tins from cooking… To make it easier, make sure you keep your recycling bin close to your normal bin – no excuses then!
#6 REDUCE food waste by meal planning. The worst kind of plastic and everyday food waste is the waste which did not even serve its single purpose! It is estimated that 10 million tonnes of food and drink waste arises post-farmgate each year, 60% which could be avoided (source).
#7 REUSE by shopping second hand. For yourself, your children (toys & clothes) but also for your home. Ebay, charity shops and markets are goldmines! Once you get into it, you’ll realise that all things you want, can be found second hand. This will save you money while you save the planet. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
Let’s stop there. I like the lucky number 7. This should have given you some guidelines of what you can do to help our planet. Every little helps – remember that! Might not seem as much, but with each person doing something, we’ll hopefully see results in our lifetime.
Here is a must read to really understand what happens to all the plastic we produce and consume and throw away: National Geographic – the journey of plastic around the globe.
A Tribe Called Life