Plastic pollution, what can we do now?

12 million tonnes of plastic in the oceans every year.

Let that sink in.

Now read it again.

Up to 12 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year. According to Greenpeace this is equal to of one rubbish truck full of plastic every minute. By the time this blog post ends, how many more trucks loads full of plastic will have entered the ocean?

McDowell1Plastic pollution in the ocean became a big topic towards the end of 2017, with the wide publicity of Sir David Attenborough’s latest Blue Planet series. The popular television programme used an entire episode at the end of the series, to highlight the issue. Worryingly, plastic pollution can now be found on every beach in the world, from the local beach to the popular tropical island beaches that can be seen all over Instagram.

According to a recently published article, if plastic consumption continues at its current rate, a staggering 12 billion tonnes of plastic will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. To put this into perspective, it has been calculated that approximately 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced, of this 6.3 billion tonnes is waste, 79% of this now in the natural environment or landfills.

As a recent reaction to this crisis, organisations have started to remove plastics from work places where possible. An example of this being the BBC, as a response to the very episode of Blue Planet mentioned previously. JD Whetherspoons, among many other bars and restaurants, have now removed single-use plastic straws and replaced them with a much more environmentally friendly paper straw.

You can’t seem to get away from plastic these days. It is great that the increasing publicity of the issue is drawing attention to the effects our everyday use of plastic is having on the planet; leading to many major organisations rethinking their environmental strategies. The tax on plastic bags within the UK has certainly had an effect on plastic consumption, with The Guardian reporting a drop in use of 85% and the number of bags found on beaches decreasing by 40%. But is this all too little too late? Are we now at the ‘damage limitation’ stage?

How are we, the general public, challenging our own use and changing our behaviours? To answer this, I carried out a quick twitter poll to see how bad people think the issue is and what they do about it.

McDowell2As the infographic  shows, it is clear that although people do recognise the problem with the current pollution issues facing the beaches both globally and in the UK, many different circumstances and laws contribute to the cleanliness of beaches globally and this is not an exact science. But it is clear that the issue cannot be ignored.

Changes of attitude in recent times could also be attributed to the powerful footage Blue Planet 2 released. However, there is still a barrier that prevents people from removing litter from beaches when they see it. Is it the attitude of ‘not my mess, not my problem”? Perhaps, but the reality is, it is everyone’s mess and it is everyone’s problem.

As a population, we can’t sit back and wait for the governments and industry to make the first move to place restrictions on plastic consumption. Look around you at the products you use in your day to day lives, how many are made out of plastic? It is fair to say that sometimes there is no other alternative, but we should make the effort to take the opportunity whenever it is presented.

Imagine the difference if we all turned down a plastic straw on an evening out, if we recycled our plastic bottles, or if we picked up that piece of plastic we just walked past and ignored on the beach? It is certainly not going to fix the issue overnight, but it is a place to start.

McDowell3giphySo, how many rubbish trucks full of plastic just entered the ocean? And what are we going to do about it?


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