It’s time to talk about plastic. According to the World Economic Forum, ’there will be more plastic than fish in terms of weight in the world’s oceans by 2050’ Plastic pollution in oceans causes at least one million seabirds and one hundred thousand marine mammals to die each year, as well as carrying invasive species that threaten native ecosystems. Ocean plastic also absorbs toxic chemicals that then enter the food chain and are linked with health problems in humans including cancer, malformation and infertility.
The charity Plastic Oceans estimates that by 2050, the amount of plastics produced globally will increase three times to 1,124 million tons. The UK alone uses over 5 million tonnes of plastics each year, of which just 24% is currently being recycled. This figure needs to increase, particularly as nearly all types of plastic can now be recycled but often aren’t due to logistical and economic reasons.
What are the solutions?
As with every issue in today’s world, it all comes down to Economics. The World Economic Forum said ‘the only way to avoid a disaster is to massively improve the economics and uptake of recycling. That means giving people incentives to collect plastic garbage and recycle, use reusable packaging, and encourage countries to drastically improve their waste collection infrastructure, to avoid plastic garbage leaking into the nature.’
The Natural Resources Defence Council of the US agrees that we need to tackle this issue on both individual and industrial levels, saying that ‘the most effective way to stop plastic pollution in our oceans is to make sure it never reaches the water in the first place. We all need to do our fair share to stop plastic pollution: individuals need to recycle and never litter, but producers of single use plastic packaging need to do more too. We need producers to design packaging so that it is fully recyclable, and so there is less waste. We also need producers to help cover the costs of keeping their products out of the ocean.’
It is up to each and every one of us, consumer, retailer and manufacturer, to take action. And we can take inspiration from retailers such as Selfridges that in 2015 banned the sale of plastic water bottles
So what can you do now to help?
Dispense with single-use plastic bottles and cups! Whilst the quantities of plastic being released into our oceans and the harm being done to us and our environment can be concepts too huge to get your head around, a manageable and practical place to start looking at helping to reduce the plastic burden on our oceans is one’s own consumption of the stuff. Get your freshly purified water from a BIBO rather than buying plastic-bottled mineral water and use a BIBO water bottle or a BIBO carafe for water on the go and at home.
Spread the word about this issue! If people don’t know about it, how can they help? You can point people towards the Plastic Oceans website and the trailer of the first ever feature-length documentary on this issue.
Guest Blogger: Nina Brown
Nina Brown is the founder of Tandem Festival (tandemfestival.com) and editor at InTandem Publications (intandempublications.com). Tandem aims to bring environmental issues to a broader audience through the arts.