Monday, 24 October 2016

Why it’s Time to Talk About our Plastic Use

With everyday items cluttering up our planet, it’s starting to get a bit too close for comfort. Now that plastic is killing the fish in our oceans, perhaps it’s time to think more about what we use and how we manage it responsibly...

Urban plastic waste
Image credit: Pixabay
Litter has long been the blight of our countryside as well as in urban areas, and much of it is plastic with no sign of abating. Our love affair with non-biodegradable materials is creating more waste than ever before...

World production of plastics has increased twentyfold since 1964. 20 times more! This staggering increase is only set to continue, with the figure set to double again over just a couple of decades. If current trends remain unaltered, we will see that level of production quadruple from where we are at today by 2050.

According to a recent report carried out by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by the time we reach the halfway point in this century.

Seal trapped in plastic waste

Photo of a seal ensnared in plastic-fabric rope; just one of the many wildlife forms battling with plastic nasties in our oceans. 
Image credit: CityLab

Just let that sink in for a moment. Oceans are home to fish, (amongst other creatures), and it is where they have existed for longer than we have been walking on land, yet their habitat is being taken over by this plague of plastic that humans cannot stop using. Figures suggest that the equivalent of one refuse truck worth of plastic is dumped in the sea every single minute.

It can be incredibly easy to blame a figurehead, and let that rest as the excuse for why we consume quite so many plastics, but that doesn’t give a fair representation of the culture we live in.

In the UK alone, we love to buy food products full of unrecyclable plastic, such as ready meals, as well as packaged meats and vegetables. Black plastic (crystalline polyethylene terephthalate, CPET) remains one of the highest used materials, as it can withstand both extreme hot and cold temperatures; yet it cannot currently be easily recycled in the UK.

Black CPET plastic waste
Image credit: Sustainable Brands
We use 1.3 billion of these little trays every year, equating to 30,000 tonnes annually, and we just throw them away. If all black CPET plastic was recycled, it is estimated that it would save local authorities £2.2-2.8m a year, which could certainly be put to better use.

All that plastic film which covers many of your foodstuffs? All of this we just throw away as well. Our desire for convenience is leaving our planet unable to cope, as we choose not to consider where the waste ends up as long as the produce we seek is kept fresh.

Everybody has the power to make a small change, just by considering the products you buy. On average, 16% of what you spend on an item is the cost of packaging it, which is just thrown away. By aiming to reduce the amount of food and other daily items covered in needless packaging, it is really possible to stop us literally swimming through plastic on our holidays in 2050.

EMERGE daily takeaway

For some helpful ideas on how you can reduce your plastic waste, check out this handy link from the Green Education Foundation.

If you are looking to get more of your plastics recycled, check out our Daily Takeaway service to bring down the costs of disposal and help out the environment at the same time. 

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