There is an elephant in the room that we are all choosing to ignore.
Why aren’t we taking action?
We are all guilty of depending on it- so much so that new government laws were placed with the intention of reducing our mass usage. From 2015, for each one we took, we were charged. This is a story of over 100 years of innovation; in 1907 we created this monster, and in 2021 we are trying our best to prevent it.
This lightweight, durable and malleable product seemed like the perfect material for multi-use, however, now we view that as overuse. The mass production of a material that isn’t easily decomposed is inevitably going to raise a red flag. What we thought was a material that would help our planet, has actually turned out to destroy it.
Plastics: modern life would seem ‘impossible’ without them, but we have long since lost control over our creation. We know the damage they’re causing but do we know the extent of this damage? Since it’s invention we have produced around 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic and of that 8.3 billion tonnes, more than 6.3 billion has become waste since 1907. What did we do with such a large proportion of waste? 9% was recycled, 12% burnt, but 79% of it is still sticking around. The same properties that make plastics so useful — their durability and resistance to degradation — also make them nearly impossible for nature to completely break down. From disposal, plastic will take between 500 and 1,000 years to decompose.
Around 8 million tonnes a year of plastic ends up in our oceans. To put that into perspective, it is so much plastic that it will outweigh all the fish in the ocean by 2050. Synthetic polymers are choking our oceans. Inevitably for marine animals this often means immediate death from getting trapped within them, swallowing them or starving with stomachs full of indigestible rubbish.
Imagine taking your family on a trip away and you’re enjoying an ataractic stroll along the beach.
Your senses seem satisfied, hearing rhythmical waves lap lightly over the shore, feeling golden rays slightly warm your back and smelling the aromatic sea air.
Pure tranquility. However, you open your eyes to what looks like a landfill site.
Over 150 plastic bottles litter each mile of UK beaches, but that doesn’t really capture it, approximately 5,000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK.
The scale of pollution is challenging to convey, numbers simply don’t do it justice. Unfortunately, your relaxing trip away may not seem so relaxing now.
In 2016, the United Nation’s Environmental Programme (UNEP) identified microplastics as one of the most alarming issues that is vital to monitor, as plastic pollution remains the biggest threat to marine biodiversity today. But are we already many years too late? As we know, microplastics, whilst tiny, have immense impact.
Ranging in size from 0.5 to 5mm in length, they hide in our homes.
These stealthy forms of plastic have replaced the natural ingredients of our personal care products, and cosmetics such as toothpaste, facial and body scrubs, and have been manufactured into some of the clothes we love to wear. Many microplastics are generated by floating plastics that are exposed to UV radiation and consequently, crumbling into these fine covert pieces.
1 trillion micro-plastics float in our ocean, making marine life increasingly vulnerable to digesting them.
This has raised concerns among scientists, especially surrounding health risks due to the toxic chemicals added to plastics.
BPA for example makes bottles transparent, but evidence suggests that it interferes with our hormonal system. DEHP makes plastics flexible but also holds the risk of causing cancer, yet we continue to use plastic for almost everything.
We all try – or claim that we try – to ‘do our bit’. But that ‘bit’, quite frankly, isn’t significant enough. 90% of the plastic items in our daily lives are single use. If every individual took note of how often plastic products are relied on and replaced them with reusable versions we would make a huge impact.
It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to supermarkets, silverware to the office or travel mug to Costa before it becomes habit. It is controllable and manageable, but we all seem to be waiting for everyone else to take lead, meanwhile, our seas are clogging up and we are becoming increasingly prone to health risks.
Don’t let actions of today destroy our world of tomorrow. There is an elephant in the room & we are choosing to ignore it. Let’s make the vital change today.
Make 2021 A Green One!
By Emily Smailes