Let’s face it, the world is in trouble, the cause? Plastic.
It’s thought more than five trillion pieces of plastic are in the world’s oceans. We’ve produced 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics since the 1950s, and just 9% of that was recycled.
According to the BBC, each year 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced and 40% of that are single use plastics, which are used once before being thrown into the world’s landfills and oceans. Greenpeace estimates that by 2050, 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfill or the natural environment, the equivalent weight of 66 million blue whales. The worst part? It’s returning from wildlife back into the food chain and on to our plates.
The BBC announced plans to ban all single-use plastics by 2020, the Scottish Government has laid out plans to get rid of cotton buds and straws, and supermarkets such as Asda and Iceland have announced their intentions to cut back their use of plastic packaging.
These changes will hopefully set the example for other governments and major corporations to follow, but you can’t help but feel concerned about the plastic waste that is already out in the environment. It’s great to cut down, but we are still contributing to this toxic and unsustainable mass of rubbish that is ruining our planet. Are we just going to leave the plastic waste to rot away? After all, it only takes around 1000 years to naturally decompose.
According to the BBC, in 2014, 2015 and 2016 the UK exported 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year. In 2014 and 2015, 500,000 tonnes of that went to China and Hong Kong. China has now changed its rules on importing waste, so the UK can no longer send certain types of plastic waste there. It is apparent that we produce too much plastic waste, with no solid solutions to dispose of it. The solution? Going plastic-free.
Going plastic free is possible. Business is booming for Britain’s zero waste retailers, so why don’t major retailers utilise this growth opportunity? Bulk Market is London’s first market free of plastic, where you can fill up your own jars with dried goods, stock up on recycled toilet paper, bamboo toothbrushes and fresh locally sourced produce.
Unfortunately, consumer culture of immediate convenience and superior logistics around the clock does make it difficult for big supply chains to be completely plastic free, but that hasn’t stopped some major retailers revolutionising their products for a plastic-free future.
The British tea brand PG Tips have announced that they are launching tea bags that are made from 100% biodegradable plant-based materials. They plan for all of their tea bags out on shop shelves to be completely plastic free by 2019.
There are a growing number of start-up brands aiming to put the pressure on big-business to reduce their plastic-waste. Slo Active create sustainable, luxury ocean wear and are dedicated to working with charities worldwide to clean up our oceans.
Plastic-free products aren’t enough for some, with major UK cities aiming to be plastic free. Greater Manchester is aiming to become the first UK city region to ditch single use-plastics. The campaign will encourage businesses and members of the public to swap to plastic free alternatives by 2020. Reusable plastic will be bought in bulk to help small businesses make the switch affordable.
#PassOnPlastic has been trending for a while, and the plastic facts are becoming scarier by the day. The solution should be to ditch plastic completely, but we all must be encouraged to do so. The UK government is encouraging the change of attitude through various schemes, such as the plastic bottle deposit system, which will impose a fixed upfront charge that will be refunded once the bottle is returned. But isn’t this scheme just spreading the message that plastic is okay to use, even though the government can’t even dispose of it properly? Does recycling really work or shall we just ditch the plastic all together?