Following my recent post about starting to stem the plastic tide I feel like I'm in danger of becoming more than a bit obsessed with how we use plastic and the impact it's having on our environment.
This week I've watched another programme on the BBC ... Drowning in Plastic ... highlighting the seriousness of this problem. It was both disturbing and fascinating and there were parts which I actually struggled to watch, especially when it came to the amount of pieces of plastic that made up the contents of a seabird's stomach.
If you want to watch it, it is on again on BBC2 on 20 October and available on iPlayer until the end of the month.
It certainly highlighted a number of things that I wasn't really aware of or had never really thought about ...
- Some of the World's biggest rivers have been turned into huge plastic arteries, transporting 50% of all the plastic that arrives in the ocean. Whole communities living by these rivers are finding it as being the only way to dispose of their waste. Of course, years ago this waste was all biodegradable so the order of things was kind of maintained. Nowadays things are totally different. These communities have been given the benefits of the lifestyle that use of plastics can bring but there is just no infrastructure for disposing of it once it is finished with.
- Traces of plastic waste have been found evident within seafood.
- There is currently an area larger than the size of France made up of throw-away plastic swirling at all depths of the Pacific Ocean ... Birds are even using it as a nesting site.
- Every single piece of plastic ever made still exists ... and will continue to do so for at least 500 years.
- Only this week The Mail reported of a Fairy washing up liquid bottle being washed up on a Somerset beach that was nearly 50 years old and still pretty much totally intact.
I don't know about you but I find all of this pretty scary. It's changed the way I look at seafood ... I don't want to be eating plastic, in however small quantities.
Have you read Dan Brown's latest book ... Origin? Perhaps Technium is not how it will end for us.
I must admit I believed recycling was part of the answer. It seems I've been duped, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. This quote comes from an article in The Independent and I must admit I was naive enough to believe that every time I filled my blue bin I was making a real difference ...
If we all get a few containers and separate out our waste, it will be taken by some nice people who will magically make it go away without any negative consequences. Recycling is the grown-up version of squeezing our eyes shut, sticking our fingers in our ears and shouting "lalalalalala!"
I also didn't really understand the limits of recycling ... did you know that most plastics can only be recycled once? And that a plastic bottle doesn't come back as another plastic bottle? It's more likely to end up as part of the material that makes up a shoe, a jumper or a park bench. This means that once the second item reaches the end of its lifespan, so too does the original plastic - and it ends up in landfill, where it will sit for many, many years.
Glass and metals, on the other hand, can be recycled for an infinite number of times.
It makes me feel like I should be doing something
Some may say as individuals we can't make a difference, but what about the people who took it upon themselves to start sending Walkers crisp packets back to the manufacturers? Only this week Walkers have announced a new recycling scheme to start whereby crisp packets will be able to be dropped off at collection points or posted for free to be made into plastic chips for re-use.
It does seem that momentum continues to grow - Gardeners' World reported a week or so ago on the problem of the millions of black plastic plant pots we use every year. Goodness only knows how many end up in landfill because local recycling schemes can't cope with recycling black plastic. It's not that they aren't recyclable - they are, just not by the majority of local councils and with no easy way of being able to get them to the right place they just end up getting thrown in the bin. Manufacturers are now starting to trial a different coloured pot, hopefully it will be as effective as the black and we will start to see a shift.
I dread to think how much stuff is in landfill that could have been recycled.
So what can we do?
There are lots of small ways, as individuals, we can help. The BBC have set up a website called Plastic Watch which gives some suggestions and ideas and I am sure there is lots more information available.
For me, it feels obvious, I need to try and reduce the amount of plastic that I use and dispose of, especially of the single use variety.
I also really need to think about what goes into my general waste bin ... should it really be going somewhere else? Can it be recycled? Can I reuse it? Yes, it might mean a bit more effort and a trip to the 'tip', but every little really will help.
I have already started using natural beeswax wraps, in an effort to reduce the amount of cling film that we use. So far, this is working really well and we have drastically reduced the amount we use. We've just had a go at making our own and it's a really simple process. I think I will be sharing these with friends and family to try and spread the impact further.
I think the next thing that I'm going to give a try is re-useable face wipes, rather than cotton wool pads. I'm going to have a go at making some of these. I will let you know how I get on.
Apologies if this post feels a bit haphazard. It really is just a bit of a brain dump as to what is going on in my mind at the moment. I feel the need to make a bit of a personal commitment as to what I want to do as an individual to try and make a difference, but for now it all feels a bit piecemeal.
How about you?
Does the plastic problem keep you awake at night?
Are you doing anything to try and change the way that you use plastic?
Drop me a note in the comments ... I'd love to hear from you 😀