SINGLE USE PLASTICS
Single use plastics have given us all a lot of convenience bags, food packaging, clothing and so much more. There are many reasons we use plastic in the way we do. Firstly, it’s cheap but it also works well for many industries. But one of the main reasons we use it is for its durability. Unfortunately though, every piece of plastic ever made still exists, with each piece having a life cycle between 450-1000 years. Even then it’s thought that it will just break down in smaller and smaller pieces but never actually disappear altogether.
Since the 1950s, humans have created a minimum of 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic worldwide, thought to be roughly equivalent to 1 billion elephants. Currently we are still generating approximately 330 million tons a year, with 8 million tonnes ending up in our seas each year.
According to the United Nations Environment, the most common single-use plastics found in the environment (in order of magnitude) are:
· cigarette butts
· plastic drinking bottles
· plastic bottle caps
· food wrappers
· plastic grocery bags
· plastic lids
· straws and stirrers
· other types of plastic bags
· foam take-away containers
So, what does this mean for us and earths wildlife?
Thousands of ocean species, from smallest fish to blue whale, die from eating or getting caught in plastic.
Fish are consuming 10s of thousands of tons, causing intestinal injury and death. But this means plastic has now entered the food chain. We are also eating up to 11,000 plastic fragments in our seafood each year (absorbing < 1% but adds up over time).
How does this affect us locally?
We, as well as other organisations and groups, run organised littler picks at least once a month to directly address the issues around litter and waste. We average around 40-50 volunteers for each session, even in the worst weather. Each month we collect anywhere between 30-50 bags of litter, most is not able to be recycled sadly. Over the course of a year this can amount to up to 600 bags of litter from our streets and beaches alone.