I am doing various essays at the moment. One of these is exploring our use of “plastic” or more accurately our attitude to plastic and how it relates to issues of our economically encouraged consumer culture. As part of this essay I am finding some rather scary statistics out (or in a number of cases re-finding). To be honest our relationship to plastic can only be deemed unhealthy in many areas of our life and I just wanted to share with you a few of these statistic that keep me re-focusing on why we are constantly trying to live without plastic and eliminate it from our lives as much as we can. (Un?)Happy reading – I hope they might give you energy as you strive to make whatever small changes you feel are possible:
- “According to estimates, at the rate we are dumping items such as plastic bottles, bags and cups after a single use, by 2050 oceans will carry more plastic than fish and an estimated 99 per cent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.” (Kamal, B., Global Issues, 2017).
- “a plate of six oysters can contain up to 50 particles of plastic.” (BBC News, 2016). We are now eating plastic folks….
- “a single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean.” (BBC News, 2016). This refers back to the use of microbeads. Thankfully this is being fazed out in products but it this is one heck of a statistic. I wonder how many of us have unused up products from face scrubs through to toothpaste with these microbeads in and how many of us (me included) have used these in the past and added thousands to our oceans.
- 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year. Only 12 per cent of this amount is recyclable. (Knapton, 2017) This is why reducing (or refusing as some like to say) our use must always come above re-using and re-cycling.
- “In the UK alone we generate 3 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, 56% of which is used packaging, three-quarters of which is from households.” (Plastic Free U.K., n.d.) I imagine this does not sound so bad against the 300 million above, but remember how small we are in comparison to many other places in the world and remember this only refers to waste. We are generating a fair lot of plastic waste for our size. The biggest issue is households – I wonder what you could change in your home that would reduce your plastic waste? See below about Plastic Free July challenge*
- “Every year an estimated 2 million tonnes of Electrical and Electronic Waste items are discarded by householders and companies in the UK. The items include anything which has a plug or battery.” (BRF, n.d.) A lot of technology and electrical equipment is a challenge to recycle. A lot of it is made of plastic and we are always encouraged to buy more/ upgrade our technology. Ideally you will either not upgrade/buy more or re-use it or find someone else who can. For folks looking to find places to recycle these items and reduce landfill it is worth searching here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/weee-list-of-local-authority-designated-collection-facilities/weee-list-of-local-authority-designated-collection-facilities (last updated Nov 2016) to see where your nearest local authority place is.
- “An area of plastic and other trash in the North Pacific Ocean is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; it covers twice the area of Texas. Here, waste materials from across the ocean are drawn together by currents. There are four other such ocean areas around the world.” (Horning, 2016) We are creating state-sized rubbish sites without even realising it…
- Plastic bags take more than 1,000 years to break down. In reality, recycling does not work because the bags are made of such low-quality plastic that it costs more to recycle them than they are worth. (Love, 2008) We finally now have the 5p tax on plastic bags – which is great but the points still stand. We must reuse the plastic bags we have for as long as possible and then recycle them (even if it costs more, it would cost the planet more for them to be discarded).
*You want to try and reduce your plastic – why not take on this challenge: http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ Over 60,000 people take part and you can sign up from 1 day to one week – have a go and see what small changes you could make that might make a world of difference!
BBC News, (2016) Plastic microbeads to be banned by 2017, UK government pledges. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37263087 Accessed 19 May 2017
BRF (n.d.) Plastics Recycling http://www.bpf.co.uk/Sustainability/Plastics_Recycling.aspx Accessed 18th May 2017
Horning, K. C. (2016) Performance With Purpose U.S. Catholic 81 (11), p12-17
Kamal, B. (2017) Inter Press Service UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic http://www.globalissues.org/news/2017/02/23/22902 Accessed 19th May 2017
Knapton, S. (2017) Supermarkets urged to create plastic-free aisle in every store. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/02/10/supermarkets-urged-create-plastic-free-aisle-every-store/ Accessed 19th May 2017
Love, M. C. (2008) The Green Isle: “We focus on recycling waste; the Irish focus on reducing it.” American Press 198 (7), p.8
Plastic Free U.K. (n.d.) Bad Plastic http://plasticfree.co.uk/bad-plastic-2/ Accessed on 19th May 2017