The problem with plastic
If we carry on consuming plastic at the same rate we are now, it’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
That’s rather incomprehensible to imagine. But, unless we change our habits that favour convenience over the environment, it will be our reality. We need to remember that there is no “away” in throwaway. Plastic was designed to last a lifetime, and every piece of plastic ever made still exists today.
Every year, an estimated 26 million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans, according to Greenpeace. And two thirds of that comes straight from the land, from litter left directly on beaches, to rubbish dropped on the streets of cities that gets into waterways and things being flushed down the toilet.
Much of what’s already in our waters is micro plastics, which has been broken down over time into tiny pieces. These are so small it’s extremely hard to extract and we mostly can’t see it. Surfers Against Sewage (www.sas.org.uk) say there’s 500 times more microplastics in the sea than there are stars in our galaxy.
And although we can’t see much of it, marine life can. This toxic waste is being eaten by plankton which magnifies up the food chain until it reaches us.
But it’s not only plankton that eat it. Plastic has long been found in the stomachs of the fish we eat, and 1 in 3 of the fish caught to eat contains plastic. But plastic has now been found inside their flesh which inevitably means it’s getting into our bodies too.
Whales accidently eat plastic bags too. Some have been found with as many as 30 plastic bags in their stomachs, making them unable to eat and die of starvation. The same happens to sea birds who mistake brightly coloured bits of plastic for food which they can also feed to their chicks.
Only 1 percent of marine litter floats on the oceans surface, while the rest sinks to the sea floor making it extremely difficult to remove.
It has now been found on every beach in the world, and plastic bags have even been found at the bottom of the world’s deepest sea trench, the Mariana trench, which is 36,000 feet below sea level.
The government announced its plan earlier this year to reduce the amount of plastic we use, but its 25 year vision could be too little too late, and more needs to be done across many of our industries.
One of the worst pollutants is coffee cups. Each year in the UK alone, more than 2.5 billion takeaway cups and thrown away each year. Many people wrongly think these are recycled, but because of the thin layer of plastic that coats the inside to prevent the cardboard getting soggy, it’s too hard for most recycling centres to remove it and recycle the rest, so it’s rarely done.
Instead, we need to be using reusable cups. At most high street cafes, as well as plenty of independents, you’ll receive a discount for using your reusable cup as a way of saying thank you for helping to save our planet.
The world’s population is currently 7.4 billion people. We have a duty to play our part in looking after our planet. There’s only one. And small changes do help.
We know not everyone can do them, but for those that can, swapping a plastic bag for a reusable cloth one, or saying no to a straw at a bar, or remembering to pack your reusable coffee cup will make a difference. If you have a takeaway coffee every day, that’s 150 a month, and 1,800 a year worth of single use cups that are thrown away. Just from one person.
With every purchase of a Turtle Cup, we donate 50p to charities that are dedicated to helping keep our beaches and oceans cleaner and free of plastic pollution. We can make this change – help us do it.