How can I take action against plastic pollution? – the big issue

What exactly is plastic pollution?

Our growing demand for single-use plastic has now exceeded our ability to dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner. Half of all plastics ever made have been produced since 2004, according to to scientists in the United States.

This means that plastic doesn’t just end up in landfills, but in rivers, on beaches and floating in seas.

This plastic pollution puts wildlife at risk, as land and sea animals face the ingestion, entanglement or suffocation of plastic waste.

This plastic eventually becomes part of the global food chain, which means humans ingest small amounts of it as well.

What is plastic pollution?

According to Surfers Against Sewage, approximately eight million pieces of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every day.

On an annual basis, that’s 12 million tonnes per year – the equivalent of one million double-decker buses.

In the UK alone, 2.2 million metric tonnes of plastic waste is generated annually. About 1.5 million metric tons come from plastics discarded by households – the equivalent of the weight of 250,000 elephants.

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Up to 80 percent of all marine debris – solid man-made or processed materials that are directly or indirectly discharged into the ocean – is plastic, theInternational Union for the Conservation of Nature noted.

Birds of almost all (99%) of UK seabird species may have ingested plastic by 2050, according to Plastic Oceans UK, without urgent action. British seabirds now face a one in five risk of dying from ingesting plastic, according to the charity.

Does plastic pollution harm human health?

Microplastics pose a serious risk to human health worldwide and are generated when large pieces of plastic gradually become smaller and smaller until they are less than five millimeters in length.

This includes tiny plastic fibers from clothing and microbeads found in some facial cleansers, which can pass through wwater filtration systems in oceans and rivers.

They can enter the human body through dust in the air, bottled water and certain foods, especially seafood. A person could consume more than 100,000 particles of microplastics every year,according to American researchers.

If our body does not get rid of these tiny fragments of plastic, they could lodge in our body or enter our bloodstream andrelease chemicals that can cause inflammation.

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Has the Covid-19 crisis worsened plastic pollution?

More than half of Britons believe plastic pollution has increased during the pandemic, according to a survey of 2,000 British adults commissioned by the Surfers Against Sewage charity.

More than a fifth of those polled were buying more single-use plastic during the pandemic, research showed, and many were buying disposable plastic masks.

Almost two-thirds (59%) said they saw more trash in their neighborhood in the past year.

How much plastic is recycled?

Plastic recycling has increased dramatically over the past two decades. Research by the British Plastics Foundation has shown that around 13,000 tonnes of plastic bottles were recycled in the UK in 2000, up from 380,000 tonnes in 2020.

About 32% of all plastic is recycled in the UK, the researchers said.

What plastic can be recycled?

The type of plastic you can recycle varies depending on the local authority area you live in, so you should check your city council’s website carefully.

However, most local communities offer plastic recycling services for milk bottles, food packaging i.e. products and some parts of upholstery.

Other types, like window fittings, car parts, and plastic cutlery, can be recycled, but it’s much more difficult to do.

Microwave meal trays, empty bleach bottles, and soap dispensers can also be recycled, but for these, you must remove the pump before recycling.

You should also check the packaging of an item to see if it can be recycled or not.

What plastic cannot be recycled?

Although every type of plastic can technically be recycled, a mix of economic and logistical factors means that some cannot be recycled in practice.

TThis includes many types of food packaging, like packets of crisps, salad bags, and plastic wrap that the fruit is often sold in.

The reason they can’t be recycled is because the packaging is made up of layers to store food in airtight conditions, which means plastic is hard to break down.

However, Tesco recently announced anew recycling program for more difficult to process plastics such as bread wrappers, packets of crisps and sachets of pet food, starting with collection points in 171 stores in South West England and Wales.

It is very difficult to recycle plastic gift wrap, take out boxes, coffee mugs and plastic used for gutters.

How to recycle plastic?

If you have to buy plastic items, recycling is the best way to reduce its overall impact on the planet and prevent it from going to landfill.

The easiest way to recycle plastic is to use the recycling bin that the city council usually provides. This will be collected at regular intervals, usually every two weeks.

Be sure to follow the guidelines given by your local authority on what they will and will not accept for recycling.

You should always make sure that the products you recycle are clean and free of liquid or food.

This helps to crush items like water bottles before recycling them as it saves space and makes them easier to transport.

Stores in the UK are now required to charge for plastic bags, which encourages you to buy reusable ones. When 5p charging was introduced in 2015, the use of plastic bagsfell 80 percent across the country.

But if you end up with single-use plastic bags, you can bring them back to most major supermarkets which often have points to recycle them. Most boards won’t accept them for recycling, but they can be sent to specialist recycling plants that deal with more delicate plastics, including shopping bags and plastic wrap.

Thisinteractive Recycle Now tool allows you to find recycling information for most of the products you find in your home.

What else can I do to help reduce plastic pollution?

The best way to combat plastic is to avoid buying it in the first place.

This could mean investing in a reusable water bottle, avoiding single-use coffee cups, swapping plastic straws for metal straws, using bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic, and opting for food packaging. durable, like those made from beeswax. Bulk products, such as fruits and vegetables, can be purchased without using the small plastic bags provided in stores. Toiletries presented in plastic bottles, such as shampoo and soap, can often be replaced with solid bars.

And although the ‘life bags’ sold by supermarkets are better for the environment than single use bags, they are still plastic and will eventually end up in landfill, so it is best to use a manufactured shopping bag. from more durable or durable materials. .

If you want to tackle plastic pollution and stay active at the same time, Surfers Against Sewage’s ambitious national beach clean-up initiative might be for you.

The Million Mile Clean will see up to 100,000 volunteers helping clean up a million miles of beaches, land and rivers in 2021. The project aims to get people to clean up their local areas as lockdown restrictions grow. are easing up, with the first events scheduled for the week of May 15th.

Visit the Million Mile Clean website to find your local cleaning. If there isn’t, Surfers Against Sewage give you all the equipment you need for up to 30 people To take part.

You can join the Surfers Against Sewage Strava Club to track your cleaning distance, and the charity asks you to provide information – including how much plastic pollution you’ve collected, which brands you’ve seen the most littered. and how far you’ve traveled – once you’re done.

Bryce K. Locke