That’s why, this year, we’re using the week to highlight the ever-growing problem of plastic pollution, in particularly in our seas. It’s argued that all of the plastic waste that has ever been produced still exists in the environment today. Either in landfill or on our land, in our rivers or in our oceans. (Andrady, 2000).
This brings us onto microplastics. As plastic materials degrade over time, exposure to sun and currents in the ocean cause them to break down into tiny particles called microplastics. Unfortunately, these attract toxins which are ingested by marine animals and being passed up the food chain.
As we are at the top of the food chain, the consequences of ingesting these microplastics could be disastrous, threatening human health
12.2 million tonnes of plastic enter our seas every single year killing around 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals globally.
Studies have shown that 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, with scientists estimating that this could be as much as 99% by 2050 if things continue in the same direction. Along with ingesting the products, many creatures are entangled by the plastic, often resulting in injury, infection or drowning.
The sheer quantity of floating plastic debris in the oceans has also increased the rise in invasive species and habitat destruction.
With 80% of plastic in our oceans coming from land sources, it’s up to us to take positive action and make changes. After all, plastic doesn’t just grow legs and walk into the sea, so we all must take personal responsibility. The ocean regulates our climate and provides us with everything we need including food, oxygen and even jobs. In short, we need it and we need it clean. The plastic problem is enormous, but it can be solved – and it is urgent that we take these simple steps to keep plastic out of the sea.
Start by refusing the main culprits: bags, bottles, coffee cups, straws and cutlery. Opt for reusable coffee cups, bring cutlery from home for on-the-go eating and metal bottles and straws for water/beverages.
You can create a kit to keep in your bag or car, full of these reusable items for when you’re out and about.
Although there’s a lot of mixed opinions and misinformation in regards to recycling, we need to put pressure on the government in order to see a systemic change. The only way to do this is to address our approach to recycling and push to radically reform recycling infrastructures. If you don’t have any of the items above and you can’t avoid plastic, at least remember to recycle. If you’re not at home and can’t find a recycling bin, take it back with you.
Only 18% of adults surveyed say they’re well informed about what can be recycled. If you’re familiar with what materials go where and best practices for the environment and wildlife, let others know!
Encourage your workplace to plant a tree and/or use less paper. Ask family and friends to reduce their use of single-use plastics and avoid items such as plastic stirrers and straws. The less demand there is for pointless plastic, the less it will be produced!
There are also a number of activities you could participate in including litter picking days and beach clean ups. Check out the Wildlife Trust to see how you can get involved. Alternatively, you can educate others by sharing blogs (like this one) and promoting sustainable solutions on social media and relevant platforms.
If you’re a business that packages products, you could switch to our Ready 2 Recycle range of flexible plastic packaging. We are proactively designing for optimisation, reducing material usage, light-weighting and investing in recyclable plastics. Our new range is actually a more environmentally friendly solution when disposed of properly.
Our recyclable packaging solutions increase shelf life, decrease carbon footprint in the supply chain and are, you guessed it, recyclable! In addition to that, consumers are actively seeking and prefer sustainable packaging solutions, with 75% of the largest generation of consumers ever willing to pay extra for sustainable products.