Plastic Planet is a series of posts that focuses on the effects of plastic on both an individual and global level. The impact of plastic on the planet is astonishing and the environment, food supply and animals are suffering.
Episode one of Plastic Planet focuses on the average UK household. As there's so much to discuss with plastic, we thought it necessary to start at home before taking a global look.
The average UK household uses 480 plastic bottles annually but only recycles 270 of them. That’s 36 million plastic bottles a year, of which 15 million are not recycled by UK households. Research from Recycle Now shows the number of plastic bottles evading recycling could reach a baffling 29 billion over the next four years.
It costs up to £78 million to get rid of all the plastic that has not been recycled in the UK. Think of where that money could be put to use if we could recycle the majority if not all our plastic bottles.
There’s still time to reduce this figure. In the first six months of the 5p charge on plastic bags, the number of single-use plastic bags dropped by 85%. Which means roughly 500 million bags were handed out compared to the previous year of seven billion.
Obviously plastic bags and bottles are not the only plastic recycling evaders but it’s a great and actually realistic place to start that can make a difference.
These statistics focus on the average UK household and are just a fraction of the plastic waste that is produced globally each year. According to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs UK Statistics on Waste recent update, the UK generated 200 million tonnes of total waste in 2012. Half of which was generated by the construction industry alone.
Published in the journal Anthropocene, research shows that there is no area left on the planet that is free of plastic waste – none whatsoever.
Plastic is useful and widely available however it’s not biodegradable and contains toxic compounds that can cause harm to not only the environment but the human population as well. Plastic pollution comes in all shapes and sizes and can, therefore, pollute the smallest of organisms that have unknowingly taken a big gulp of plastic. This can have a nasty effect on them leading to a problem in the food chain.
Land and air pollution are also a massive problem when it comes to plastic. Plastic gets dumped in landfills; those pesky toxic compounds can then leak into the ground leading to contamination of water supplies and the ground itself.
Have you ever smelt burning plastic? It’s not only disgusting but it releases poisonous chemicals into the air. Who breaths in the air? Yep, us.
Not to mention the effect plastic has on the environment and animals. Animals can ingest plastics leading to major health problems and ultimately death.
What can we do?
You’re already doing so well with the plastic bag thing. Keep it up guys.
Reusable water bottles
Stop buying plastic bottles and pick up a reusable water bottle. Make sure it’s BPA free and preferably grab a glass one instead of plastic.
Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
This speaks for itself but recycle everything, it does help.
Avoid disposable plastic anything
Try to reuse everything as much as possible and stay clear of the disposable plastics of the world such as cutlery, straws etc.
These are just a few simple differences that you can incorporate into your lifestyle.
One thing in particular that would drastically reduce the amount of plastic being pushed into the environment would be a move to hemp plastics. This would need to come from much further up in the chain and would require manufacturers to shift to using a different material, other than plastic.
If you want to find out more information or learn how to get involved, check out the links below.
The Ocean Cleanup