Be The Change
World Turtle Day is 23rd May. The day was created as an annual observance to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. These animals (especially turtles) along with many species of sea life are in desperate need of protection. From us. Mankind. And our Plastic Pollution Problem.
Watching the film a Plastic Ocean left many lasting impressions and much sadness. Not least of all how these sea creatures have had their habitat invaded, destroyed and poisoned by our desire for disposable plastic. Would we want to get tangled up by plastic every time we moved around our homes (that someone else had put there)? Do we want to ingest plastic with every mouthful we take (that someone else had put on our plate)? - oh wait, we do.
Did You Know?
Plastic never goes away. Plastic is a durable material made to last forever, yet at least 33% of it is used once and then discarded. Plastic cannot biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics.
Plastic attracts other pollutants. Plastic should be considered toxic if it gets into the natural environment because of its ability to attract poisonous chemicals “like a magnet”.
Plastic poisons our food chain. Even plankton, the tiniest creatures in our oceans, are eating microplastics and absorbing their toxins. Plastic toxins end up in fish and shellfish, which end up on our plates, which end up inside our bodies.
Plastic affects human health. Chemicals leached by plastics are in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption (which produces hormones involved in growth, the metabolism, sexual development and function) and other ailments.
Plastic piles up in the environment. Less than 5% of plastics are recycled worldwide. The rest ends up in landfills or becomes 'litter', and a small portion is incinerated. Buried beneath each landfill, plastic leachate, full of toxic chemicals, is seeping into groundwater and flowing downstream into lakes and rivers.
Plastic threatens wildlife. Entanglement, ingestion and habitat disruption all result from plastic ending up in the spaces where animals live. In our oceans alone, plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36:1.
Sea turtles and other marine creatures mistake plastics as food (such as jellyfish) and ingest it. This mistake causes blockages within their digestive system; pierces their bowels and intestinal wall; they feel full up with a stomach full of plastic and therefore starve; the plastics leech toxins and poison them; it all results in eventual death.
What We Can Do
There are 4 well-known simple steps that will quickly and easily reduce the amount of single-use plastic in our oceans.
1. Buy a refillable stainless-steel water bottle and stop buying drinks in plastic bottles. Tapwater.org informs you of locations that will happily refill water bottles. Unfortunately there is no law stating tap water must be provided upon request except in licensed establishments. If they serve alcohol, they must provide tap water by law.
2. BanTheBag - Plastic bags are petroleum-based and do not biodegrade. Carry a reusable bag with you at all times and always take them shopping with you, not just for groceries. The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has plummeted by more than 85% after the introduction of a 5p charge. Andrew Pendleton, of Friends of the Earth, said: “The plummeting plastic bag use demonstrates the huge benefits just a small change in our everyday habits can make. It means less damaging plastic finding its inevitable way into our waterways and countryside. This is a massive boon for nature and wildlife.”
Supermarkets all sell “bags for life”. If you would like something more fashionable and just as durable, have a look at the colourful prints of Laura Spring’s Tote bags or our fabulous Bohemia Pom Pom baskets, perfect for around town, market days, picnics at the park and a beach day.
3. Refuse plastic straws unless you really require one to drink. In the U.S. 500 million plastic straws are used each day. That is enough straw waste to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times. Now imagine that magnified by global consumption. If you do need a straw, please consider stainless steel, bamboo or biodegradable paper.
4. Take a reusable coffee cup - many establishments even offer a discount for bringing your own cup. As this BBC article highlights, every day hundreds of thousands of Britons put their coffee cup into a recycling bin. They're wrong - those cups aren't recyclable, and the UK throws away 2.5bn of them a year. To make these cups waterproof, the card is fused with polyethylene, a material that cannot be separated out again in a standard recycling mill, and the cups have to be made from virgin pulp.
&Keep would like to add three more 'plastic swaps' to that list:
- substitute cling film (plastic food wrap) for a food wrap alternative such as the Abeego beeswax wrap
- use biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones
- take your food in stainless steel containers rather than plastic.
As the plastic bag levy has shown, small actions can make the biggest difference.
A better world starts with me.
Today. Tomorrow. Forever.