Plastic Pollution – Why do I give a sh*t!



 Here we are sitting at an indoor play area on a rainy day in May. We are surrounded by artificial light, plastic furnishings, and man-made materials. We have driven the 15-minute journey in a diesel car and yet, here I am, refusing to buy the children an orange juice…Why? Because it comes in a plastic bottle.

 For the last 2 years, we have been on a mission to reduce our plastic consumption; we have exchanged plastic toothbrushes for bamboo, stopped buying disposable razors and we refuse drinking straws on a regular basis.

But why do we care, why do we give a sh*t?
  • - It's too late to change
  • - We can't make a difference
  • - Alternatives cost more money and are harder to find
  • - We won't see any change in our lifetime
  • - It’s the government's problem, not ours
 Some people will call me a hypocrite and they'd be right. I work for a company whose sole purpose is to manufacture disposable retail displays, often in plastic, to persuade people to purchase things they do not need and often cannot afford. We live in a semi-detached house heated using oil, we fly in aeroplanes for one-week holidays around the globe, we eat meat and wear man-made fabrics.  

 So why is it that I have started to care about the environment and what is it about plastic that I am finding so hard to deal with?

We were influenced by "The Blue Planet Effect"
 Back in 2017 we watched The Blue Planet II on the BBC and was horrified by what we saw. Episode 7 showed the effects of microplastics on the oceans of the world. Albatross parents were seen unwittingly feeding their chicks plastic, mother dolphins were exposing their new-born calves to pollutants through their contaminated milk and the noise of boats and drilling rigs were found to be making it difficult for marine animals, who use sounds to communicate, to be heard. The visual impact of this alone was enough to get us thinking.




We watched "A Plastic Ocean"
 A Plastic Ocean is a documentary film directed by the Australian journalist Craig Leeson. It investigates the devastating impacts that plastic has caused to our environment, especially our marine life.

What starts off as an adventure to film the blue whale leads to the shocking discovery of a thick layer of plastic debris floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean. 
We discovered "Recycling is not the answer"
 Everything you have been told about plastic recycling is wrong. Recycling is an easy cop-out for governments and large corporations, but the truth is we need to take a very different action if we are to stop irreversibly destroying the planet.

 Of all that plastic you found in your kitchen, two thirds cannot be recycled (if you carefully inspect the packaging, you’ll see much of it states “not currently recyclable”

 Recycling is not something that governments or charities do out of the goodness of their hearts – it’s an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars globally. A drop in oil prices or a shift in environmental policy in China has the power to render recycling plastic much less profitable for the companies doing it, often making it not worth their while at all. As a result, 70 percent of potentially recyclable plastic in Europe ends up in landfills, in oceans or are incinerated, leading to the release of devastatingly harmful toxins into the environment.

Plastic – unlike glass or metal – cannot be recycled infinitely, and after a handful of times it will be discarded, where it will take centuries to degrade. One single water bottle will remain on the planet in some form for a minimum of 450 years.




I started to see it with my own eyes
 Why do we frown upon people dropping litter in the street or industries that pump chemicals into a local river? Is it because we see the effects with our own eyes because it affects our local community directly? 

 Would I still purchase bottled water if I had to live among the landfill it causes? The answer is most defiantly no.

So Why?
 So why do I care so much? Because I have become aware, I have seen first-hand the amount of plastic in my local rivers, the plastic bottles littering my local beach. Even though my small contribution may make little difference it will make some difference. It will raise awareness, it will teach my children about the concerns and in turn, they will teach their children. 

What can we do?
Whilst I am totally aware that I cannot change the world, I cannot reverse the millions of years of destruction caused by my own kind I am also aware of the following:

"Every revolution begins with a spark" 


So where to start?

Consider every purchase:
Is the item required? How long will it last? Can I borrow it instead? Can I purchase it second hand? Is there a non-plastic alternative?

Review the products you buy regularly

Look through each room of your house and seek replacements. The bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom all contain plastic items that can often be replaced. Consider bamboo toothbrushes, a safety razor, and alternative cleaning products


Be plastic aware when out and about
 In restaurants look at what the other customers are using; are children served plastic cups with straws, is disposable cutlery offered. Always ask BEFORE you place your order as it is easy to get caught out. (I once ordered a drink in a glass to watch the bar staff simply pour the drink from a plastic cup into a glass and throw the cup in the bin.)

Consider packaging and transport 
 Eco products are often not as readily available in store, so It is tempting to buy online but beware of packaging. (we once ordered a roll of paper tape that was delivered from China in a bubble envelope, the air miles alone were enough to outdo any good we had done.

Tell others and set an example
 Discuss your choices with friends, at work and when out and about. Don’t be afraid to show off your latest stainless-steel lunchbox or to explain why you do not want a bottle of water from a store. Speak to restaurant staff about their products and write to the management if necessary. You will be surprised at how helpful they will be if they know their choice of packaging may be turning customers away.



    
Educate your children and let them make the decision
 Do they really want the latest plastic toy, or would they prefer a family day out? Encourage them to donate toys to the charity shop and allow them to pick up something “new” while you are there. Show them what happens when plastic is discarded and let them help with the recycling.

Further Information
 For further information on this subject and to see what you can do please check out the following sites:



Comments

  1. It does feel like an almost impossible task now but if we’d listen 40 odd years ago when Prince Charles was telling us we had to change our ways we might be in a slightly better environmental place.

    Great post x

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  2. I go around picking up peoples rubbish and we are also doing our brst to make changes to our lifetyle. I have actually just been to the zero waste shop today and got a tin of toothpaste tablets to try out.

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  3. We might not be able to take back a lot of what has been done but we can all do a bit to help make things better.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Some good ideas for getting started. We are now carrying our own metal straws so I always ask for no straw and use our own. The kids like a straw so that is the best way I can think to do it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. There have been some great programmes on the TV recently which have really helped to increase awareness of the issues. You're right we can't individually undo what's been done but if we can all make a few small changes it will grow into something bigger and that can only help.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've started carrying reusable water bottle, coffee cup, metal straws, spoons, and a tote bag with me everywhere. It's a lot of clobber, but it's worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. We are making a concious effort to reduce using plastic by using glass bottles and buying meat from the butchers as it is not in plastic packaging. It is so hard though as so much is covered in plastic

    ReplyDelete

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