This week marks the celebration of the United Nations World Environment Day, which helps generate awareness for important, topical issues on our planet. As this year’s theme is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’, the necessity to get our global community supporting this initiative is more prevalent than ever.
Plastic pollution has become part of our vernacular, wherever you go. From TV programmes and social media streams to ordering a coffee or sitting with colleagues over lunch, the conversations which are taking place to fight plastic have all greatly progressed to addressing our individual roles to fight this wastage epidemic. We all are starting to understand the responsibility we have, to act on behalf and care for the planet as a larger community.
Through the increasing dialogue of plastic pollution, we need to understand the difference between single use and practical plastic. We should not look at all plastic in fear but rather, than that which does not have any purpose. Plastic since it’s invention has been pivotal in medicine, sport, engineering and technology, to name but a few industries. Thanks to plastic, we have been able to produce seat-belts and airbags, fit surgical pace makers, provide infrastructure insulation and construct laptops and phones. The world has changed because of plastic for the better in many ways.
Conversely, with up to 50% of consumer plastic being single-use, it shows how the nature of production and the system itself has changed creating detrimental consequences for the environment. Plastic pollution has been building up to epidemic levels where if we continue to produce and use single use plastic as we are, by 2050 there is said to be more plastic in the oceans than fish. Offshore, the statistic is just as staggering that around 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be in our landfills in our natural environment within the same time frame. Disposable plastic is therefore the disease in which this planet is suffocating in.
But it doesn’t have to be this bleak. We have the power to change this and look to a more sustainable, brighter, plastic-free future.
World Environment Day every day: How to reduce your contributions to plastic pollution
Getting onboard the ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ agenda for this UN World Environment Day will be a chance for everyone to listen, learn and act in making changes to benefit all our livelihoods, and the future of our planet. Below provides some ideas on how you can help make a difference to support sustainability:
Just brew it! – Americans alone consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, and throw about 25 billion Styrofoam cups per year, showing just how valuable it is as a consumer to consider reusable products in our disposable society. Invest in your own coffee cup, including brands KeepCup or Frank Green, to help reduce reduce the waste of normal, non bio-degradable coffee cups.
The best bamboo can get! Did you know that packaging accounts for around one quarter of wasted materials which reach out landfills? This showcases that there are other takeaway products which we need to invest in when addressing plastic wastage. As consumers, it’s falls upon us to be responsible in disposing of plastic packaging appropriately. To support the zero-waste policy, alternatives such as glass, mason style jars, bamboo Tupperware, water flasks with brands such as Chilly’s and reusable cutlery (or even from the kitchen draw!) are effective to reducing single-use waste. Biodegradable bamboo can be found in other products such as toothbrushes, to help reduce our plastic even further.
Run sustainable! Making individual choices to be more environmentally sustainable is important but advocating these with your friends, family and colleagues is just as significant in our race to eradicate plastic. By spreading the word, you’re helping do you bit to get others on board too and support these initiatives to end single-use plastic further. The investments we can make now benefits the longevity of our planet. It may feel like wherever you go you hear of plastic but there’s a reason for this, so don’t shy away from this. We as consumers have the power to say no and hold global players accountable for the role they play in stepping up to stop plastic production and consumption. Think sustainability for our future.
Don’t litter! It’s estimated that in the UK alone, we use 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year but more than one third of these are not recyclable. The rest? Over 150 plastic bottles litter every mile of our beaches. Therefore, we need get involved with local NGO’s to help clean up the mess we have created.
Organizations such as Parley and Surfer’s against Sewage collaborate with big brands such as Adidas to raise awareness of this issue, as well as allow donations and run local park and beach cleans around the world to educate and raise awareness internationally of plastic pollution. The more we learn and are active in our approach to sorting out this issue, the more we support our future generations to do the same to support our planet.
It’s a catastrawphe! Single use straws are one of the biggest plastic polluters we have, with an estimated 500 million plastic straws thrown away every day in America. These contribute to the 100,000 marine animals and turtles which are killed every year by plastic. So whether you are going to the pub for a drink or looking to sit out in the garden with friends to enjoy some Pimms, buy a reusable metal or bio-degradable straws.
‘Whale meet again’! – When we throw disposable plastic away, it comes back full circle to us. Wherever ‘away’ eventually is, plastic never decomposes, it exists infinitely and breaks up into microplastic pieces. It’s estimated that there are 25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating across the oceans, reaching deep even into Arctic ice. In total, the amount of microplastic we have currently on our planet is 500 times the size of the number of stars in our galaxy. This can be reduced even further into products we don’t realise contain plastic, such as microbeads found in toothpastes, washing lotions and household detergents. As consumers, it’s our role to be more conscious of the products we use and check whether these products are ethical or not, for example using apps such as ‘Beat the Bead’. We need to address the source of the issue itself which is the production of plastic and how we use it.
It’s tote-ally cool! – With the production of 5 trillion plastic bags globally every year, an infinite life span and an average use of 12 minutes, this is an equation for disposable dominance. We therefore need to be more vigilant about what we shop with. Taking a re-usable, tote bag with you for shopping is a significant way to minimize bag wastage, and has already proven to be a success. Since the UK 5p levy was introduced in the UK in 2015, the use of bags has reduced from 140 to 25 per person per year. The more tote’s, the merrier!
Lettuce grow it! The glorious British summer has arrived, so what better way to make the most of it than getting them outside and planting their own food! Whilst this is a luxury for some, working with younger generations in green spaces is a great way to teach about sustainability and picking your own food rather than buying our groceries wrapped in single-use plastic we find in the shops such as cucumbers or broccoli. Getting creative is key to changing our mindset to facilitate change.
I think, therefore, I recycle! – With 1 million plastic bottles bought every minute, we don’t consider where this rubbish will end up or account for what plastic is recyclable and what is not. Where recycling can be perceived to be time-consuming, discombobulating and fickle, we need to change this outlook to support changes for biodegradable and recyclable products used as future disposable alternatives. As we gather more people to learn, understand and utilize these methods effectively, our vision for a more sustainable and less disposable future will become more concrete.
Now the ultimate driving machine, is you.
Be the person we need for change to end the production and use of plastic. There’s no better time to start than on World Environment Day in becoming more conscious in your plastic choices, to support a change for ourselves and all the future generations yet to embark on this world.