I recently wrote an article about plastic pollution and, although I've been aware of the damage it's doing for a while, I wasn't aware of the scope of the problem. It made for some shocking reading - shocking enough to make me thoroughly rethink and change my attitude towards single use plastics.
What shocked me is how ubiquitous it's become and how we're becoming so used to it that we often don't give it a thought. The problem with that, of course, is that we don't think about what happens to it after we've used it. The answers are troubling:
The total volume of all plastic ever produced is estimated to be around 8.3 billion tonnes, of which 6.3 billion tonnes is now waste. Nearly 80% now remains in landfill or the natural environment, particularly in the world's oceans.
Nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute around the world. In 2015, Americans purchased about 346 bottles per person - 111 billion plastic beverage bottles in all. It all has to go somewhere, leading to some 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flowing into the oceans every year from coastal regions.
By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight.
There are a few things we can do to reduce the amount of plastic we use, but we need to make sure we're doing these things right. For example, before you get overly-proud of yourself because you use a cotton tote bag instead of a plastic bag for shopping, it's worth remembering that it's estimated that cotton tote bags need to be used between 100-300 times to have a smaller carbon footprint than a plastic bag.
That means reducing our use of plastic has to be informed and sustained.
So what am I doing, besides firing this little rant out into the ether? Well, so far, I'm:
Carrying a reusable water bottle rather than buying bottled water. (I've been doing this for a while.)
Avoiding buying any drinks in plastic bottles.
Refusing straws in restaurants.
Avoiding plastic packaging.
Carrying a reusable bag for all shopping (not just groceries).
Storing food in reusable tubs and jars rather than covering it with cling-film.
Avoiding disposable razors.
I'm sure there's more I could be doing, so any thoughts or suggestions would be welcome. Alone I might not make much of a difference, but I happen to like the planet looking natural, not covered in crap. So together we can make sure it stays healthy and beautiful for at least a little longer.