With a recent spike in news stories across the globe, we can see the plastic is having a detrimental impact on our oceans. Around the world, we are producing over 300 million tonnes of plastic each year due to its cheapness and versatility when it comes to packaging – creating an environmental problem that needs to be tackled. In 2015, 322 million tonnes of plastic were produced which would equal the same weight as 900 Empire State Buildings!
How are we using plastic?
The world we live in has become reliant on plastic, from plastic bags to plastic packaging — however, it has been estimated that around 50% of plastic is only used once before it is disposed of. Only 12% of plastic is recycled, ranging from plastic bags to plastic bottles. When we looked to see where the greatest amount of plastic is being used, not surprisingly it came to packaging which accounted for 40% of its use.
Plastic bags are one of the biggest culprits of wasted plastic, with an estimated 500 billion used around the world annually. However, the UK government has taken a step in the right direction by making large shops (those with over 250 employees) in England charge 5p for carrier bags. But has this helped? Since the scheme was introduced in 2015, England saw that the number of plastic bags used went down by 80% which has benefitted this environmental issue. Currently there is around 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic currently in our waters.
Plastic under the sea
Reports from Dame Ellen MacArthur suggest that by 2050, the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh the number of fish. Not only does this have a threat on the existing sea creatures, such as turtles (at least 50% have consumed plastic), it also will have a huge impact on their habitats which could cause great damage to different environments below the water and create everlasting problems.
8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the ocean every year and shockingly, one in three marine mammals are tangled in litter. It’s also been found that 90% of seabirds have pieces of plastic wedged into their stomachs — a problem caused by those on land affecting those off land.
According to research, 20% of the litter finding its way into the ocean comes from offshore sites and ships. 80% is attributed to high winds that blow litter from beaches and sometimes even illegal disposals. Research shows that plastic usually gathers where the ocean current meets, forming plastic islands that sea creatures sometimes use as transportation that could move them far away from their usual habitat.
Plastic is notorious for containing chemicals and soaking up toxins from the air that are found to damage sea creatures and inevitably, humans. After a while, the plastic in the sea will release chemicals and the fish in the ocean will potentially inhale them – resulting in a contaminated food supply chain.
Tackling the problem
There are many ways that you can reduce the amount of waste you generate to help safeguard the planet and make it a better place for everyone to live. Reconomy — a waste management company with competitive skip costs — advises that the most common and effective way to reduce plastic pollution is to have a waste management service in place that can help you reduce and track the changes your business makes when it comes to waste. However, there are more methods that the everyday person can follow to make a difference:
- Prevention – By asking IF the use of plastic is really necessary or could an alternative material be used.
- Recycling—a simple solution that can make a huge impact. If you recycle, you are immediately keeping plastics from entering our oceans and reducing the amount of new plastic that goes into circulation.
- Microbeads—this is becoming a more common type of plastic pollution in our ocean, and it’s preventable. A lot of bathroom essentials like face scrubs and toothpastes contain tiny plastic particles named microbeads, they make their way into the ocean through sewer systems.
- Litter picking—to reduce the amount of plastics going into our oceans, you could participate in litter picking on your nearest beach which will make a huge difference