While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become addicted to single-use plastic products — with severe environmental consequences.
Around the world, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, while up to five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed for single-use purposes – used just once and then thrown away.
Plastics and microplastics are now ubiquitous in our natural environment. They are becoming part of the Earth’s fossil record and a marker of the Anthropocene, our current geological era. They have even given their name to a new marine microbial habitat called the “plastisphere”.
We have seen a lot of positive action, but the truth is that we all need to do more and turn off the tap on plastic pollution at the source.
There are many things that you as an individual can do – from asking the restaurants you visit to stop using plastic straws, to bringing your own coffee mug to work, to pressuring your local authorities to improve how they manage your city’s waste. Take the Clean Seas pledge and adopt new habits to limit your plastic footprint.
For inspiration, here are 9 things we can all do to #BeatPlasticPollution for #CleanSeas:
1. Clean a Beach: If you live near a coastline, join beach clean-ups in your area. Or take your family along on a beach walk and start your own clean-up.
2. Clean a River: 80% of marine litter originates from land and rivers drain plastic waste into the oceans. Join a river clean-up or do your own! The river will look nicer and benefit its ecosystem and the ocean.
3. Quit Smoking: Did you know that smoking contributes to the plastic that enters the ocean? For over 25 years, cigarettes butts have been the top item collected during the International Coastal Cleanup.
4. Shop Sustainably: Next time you are out shopping, choose food with no plastic packaging, carry a reusable bag, buy local products, and refill containers to reduce your plastic waste and effect on the environment.
5. Try a Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Become a zero-waste champion. Invest in sustainable, ocean-friendly products- reusable coffee mugs, water bottles and food wraps. Consider options like menstrual cups, bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo bars. These will help you save money and the ocean too.
6. Travel Sustainably: When you are on holiday, try to watch your single-use plastic intake. Refuse miniature bottles in hotel rooms, take your own reusable drinking bottle and use reef-safe sunscreen, without microplastics
7. Be an advocate for change: Ask your local supermarkets, restaurants and local suppliers to ditch plastic packaging, refuse plastic cutlery and straws, and tell them why. Pressure your local authorities to improve how they manage waste.
8. Dress Sustainably: The fashion industry produces 20 per cent of global wastewater and 10 per cent of global carbon emissions. That’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. “Fast fashion” is so last year. Consider sustainable clothing lines, vintage shops and repair your clothes when possible.
9. Choose plastic-free personal care products: Personal care products are a major source of microplastics, which get washed into the oceans straight from our bathrooms. Look for plastic-free face wash, day cream, makeup, deodorant, shampoo and other products.
(Source: UNEP.org; Images: Internet)