The world’s plastic epidemic is often portrayed as a far-flung problem – one which might cause a bit of unsightly litter on motorway sidings, but not one that could seriously affect our daily lives.
But this could be about to change.
It is a little-known fact that Britain has been selling rubbish to China, paying to pass the buck of our excess garbage, and the proof of our national unsustainability.
According to the BBC, ‘Britain has been shipping up to 500,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling in China every year, but now the trade has been stopped’.
That’s right. With China no longer willing to accept the waste – in a bid to clean up its own outlook – we as a nation will be forced to confront our throw-away, one-use culture, and the staggering quantity of rubbish that this generates.
The solution is for business, homes and manufacturers to be proactive, and to take this opportunity to adopt smart, refillable solutions for the health—not just of the planet—but of the nation.
UK faces build-up of plastic waste
UK faces build-up of plastic waste
UK does not have capacity to deal with extra plastic waste after a Chinese import ban, says industry group.
With Greenpeace reporting that the equivalent of a truck load of plastic is dumped in the sea every minute, things are looking bad for our environment.
But we mustn’t despair.
You don’t have to live in an eco-home or install solar panels to make a difference. There are hundreds of small daily things that everyone can do, which really add up to curb the plastic epidemic. Here are just a few:
- Take your own bags to the shops, and don’t buy food which comes in multiple layers of packaging. Resist the urge to put individual fruits and vegetables in their own bags. Better still, write to the supermarkets and urge them to use less.
- Try out a grocery delivery service. No longer the preserve of the middle-classes, these services are competitive, nationwide, and hugely sustainable. The deliveries are fixed (great for the environment), the boxes are recycled, and the produce is seasonal and organic. What could be better?
- Stop buying bottled water. Just stop. Get a flask. Reuse an old bottle. Fill it up from the tap. If everyone did this, the world would be an instantly less plastic-filled place.
- Reject the offer of a straw. On a night out, at the cinema, wherever. Straws are the ultimate one-use item, and even more pernicious because no one thinks about them. G&T tastes better straight from the glass anyway.
- Adopt the re-usable coffee cup. The cups aren’t great for the environment, but the plastic lids are a disaster. Many companies now offer reusable coffee cups – even the high street coffee shops themselves – and many offer a discount on your coffee if you have one. Winner!
2018 has the potential to be a fantastic year, one in which we move towards sustainability and the elimination of single-use plastics.
Happy New Year from Vesta!
We all know that plastic is disastrous for the environment, but it is now being revealed that plastics are making their way into our bodies.
We’re consuming plastic every day in our drinking water.
A disturbing report from Orb demonstrates that ‘tap water samples in cities on five continents is contaminated with microscopic plastic fibers. Plastic is pouring out of faucets from New York to New Delhi. Scientists say they don’t know how these fibers reach household taps, or what their health risks might be, but experts suspect plastic fibers transfer toxic chemicals when consumed by humans’.
More than 40% of our plastic containers are single-use, but ‘plastic persists in the environment for centuries’. It is perhaps no wonder that plastics are making their way into our food chain, but what is striking it the worldwide scale of the problem:
‘The contamination defies geography: The number of fibers found in a sample of tap water from the Trump Grill, at Trump Tower in Manhattan, was equal to that found in samples from Beirut. Orb also found plastic in bottled water, and in homes that use reverse-osmosis filters. 83 percent of samples worldwide tested positive for microscopic plastic fibers.’
The government’s recent targeting of single-use plastics could not be more timely, but the revelation that microscopic man-made fibres are now getting into our bodies should encourage us all to resist single-use, and find refillable reusable solutions.
Christmas should be an indulgent time of year, but as consumerism hits its November stride and December peak, our landfill use and C02 emissions increase.
Our festivities put a strain on the environment.
There are positive and low-impact steps we can all take to ensure a more eco-friendly festive season.
Stocking fillers and one-use gifts tend to be plastic, and they tend to end up in landfill. Harvard academics have estimated that, in the US, ‘each adult spends an average 475 dollars on presents, and about half of these gifts are unwanted … A 2015 survey in Australia showed that 78.5% of people receive a gift they don’t want over the holiday season, and 13.7% of these people will throw away these unwanted gifts, rather than returning them to the store’.
- Think twice about buying something made of plastic that will be disposed of by January. If it will be funny for less than a day or two, save your money and help the environment.
- Return or re-gift unwanted items, and remember to include gift receipts in your Christmas parcels.
- Remember to take your own carrier bags to the shops.
- Have your online shopping delivered without bags where possible.
- Re-use packaging when you wrap and send your own gifts.
According to the BBC, 1 billion Christmas cards end up in landfill, where they can take up to 30 years to decompose. If all these cards were recycled rather than thrown away, it would help save the equivalent of around 248,000 trees.
- As well as recycling the cards you receive, try and buy cards made from recycled materials.
- Try and hand deliver to friends and family who live close by and further reduce your Christmas carbon footprint .
‘Britons decorate and throw away over 6 million real Christmas trees during the festive season which produces an extra 9,000 tonnes of waste’ (BBC).
- Avoid plastic trees. These are often made from unrecyclable materials, and are usually shipped from Asia, increasing their carbon footprint.
- Try and make use of local recycling and freecycling services to give away unwanted fake trees, or donate via your local council to a family in need.
- When buying a real tree, look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification. The Soil Association can give advice on eco friendly Christmas tree suppliers in the UK.
- Most importantly, recycle your tree! Many local councils provide services to remove and recycle real trees for free, or have drop-off points. The trees are chipped to provide mulch for gardens and parks, and make environmentally friendly animal bedding.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
The Guardian has learned that 1 million plastic bottles are bought and sold every minute around the world. This amounts to more than 1 and a half trillion bottles per year and is only due to increase unless drastic measures are taken.
Former yachtsman and global navigator, Helen MacArthur writes:
“Shifting to a real circular economy for plastics is a massive opportunity to close the loop, save billions of dollars, and decouple plastics production from fossil fuel consumption.”
Hugo Tagholm, of Surfers Against Sewerage adds:
“Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain. Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.Whilst the production of throwaway plastics has grown dramatically over the last 20 years, the systems to contain, control, reuse and recycle them just haven’t kept pace.
We are confident that with the use of smart packaging and the changes in home-delivery culture, that the amount of plastic bottles used by the general public can be reduced significantly and that MacArthur’s and Tagholm’s goals can be met.