10 Facts On The Fight Against Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution has always been a concern among environmental groups, but it seems to have become a hot topic recently.

Surfers against Sewage have long campaigned against marine litter and plastic pollution. Their latest campaign, Wasteland, saw the installation of a 30ft warship on a Cornish beach – a structure made out of five tonnes of plastic waste collected from around the UK. The intention was to highlight the growing threat of throwaway plastics to our seas.

SASShipEdit_08

Image courtesy of Surfers Against Sewage

Other organisations are also getting involved – the most recent example coming from Sky News in the shape of their Ocean Rescue campaign.

The broadcaster is showing how valuable the backing of a media organisations can be to important environmental campaigns; providing regular coverage on the state of our oceans and the pollution we’re pumping into them. One of their latest updates was about a female expedition crew, aiming to raise awareness of the damage being caused to the world’s oceans by sailing around the UK in 30 days. During the ‘eXXpedition’, the crew will be collecting water samples to measure for micro-plastics and other toxic chemicals while building awareness with events in certain ports.

With campaigns like this making the mainstream media, surely the future is looking promising?

sl_plastic_feat_free

At the start of July, at Paddle Round the Pier in Hove, I listened to a talk from a Surfers against Sewage rep about the damage we’re doing to our oceans . Looking back at my notes, and after doing some research online, I’m shocked by the statistics.

The situation is really BAD.

So in case you’re wondering just how bad, or even doubting whether our oceans are actually that dirty, feast your eyes over the shocking facts below…

  • Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans.
  • The Marine Conservation Society’s 2015 Beachwatch survey identified 159 plastic bottles for every mile of beach surveyed in the UK
  • A plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to break down. 
  • The average Briton throws out a staggering 177 kg of packaging waste every year.
  • Once discarded, just one plastic straw can last in the environment for hundreds of years.
  • Nearly 24 cotton bud sticks are found for every 100 metres of UK coastline. These can last for over 150 years.
  • 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, and 1 million sea birds are killed each year by marine plastic pollution, either through ingestion or entanglement. Turtles and whales often ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish…
  • Scientists have recently discovered microplastics embedded deep in Arctic ice proving that plastics are being carried far and wide by the ocean currents and affecting a variety of ecosystems and food chains
  • According to National Geographic (via OceanCrusaders.com), it is believed that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean
  • In 1950, the world’s population of 2.5 billion produced 1.5 million tons of plastic.
    In 2016, a global population of more than 7 billion people produced over 320 million tons of plastic.
    This is set to double by 2034.

Photo by José Martín Ramírez C on Unsplash

Photo by José Martín Ramírez C on Unsplash

It sounds bleak but there is a glimmer of hope.
In 2014, we were using around 8 billion carrier bags.

In 2016, after the 5p carrier bag charge was introduced, we used 500 million – a huge reduction!

So small schemes with national backing can make a difference.

 From charges on plastic bags to deposit return systems* (which have been a success in forward-thinking countries like Germany and the Netherlands) it is possible to reduce litter and encourage recycling. But these schemes needs the backing of governments or large corporations to be truly successful.

So we need to make them listen.

Pacific Plastic

Image courtesy of Surfers Against Sewage


One last fact for you.

Clearing up litter costs taxpayers almost £1 billion a year in England. So if you still needed persuading, solving this problem makes financial, as well as environmental, sense.

Here are a few ways to take action and help save our seas:

 

* Deposit return systems are where a small deposit of between 10-20p is added to the purchase costs of bottled or canned drinks. Consumers are provided with opportunities to easily reclaim their deposit when they dispose of the product at recycling or collection points. In countries where this is already in place, the scheme has been proven to change behaviour, reduce littering and increase recycling.

 

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