Why should we?
Conventional plastics are versatile hardwearing materials with many beneficial applications, however, most are used for packaging and discarded after a single use. Due to their durability and disposable usage, the detrimental effect of plastics on the environment is immense.
In the UK only around half of plastic bottles are recycled, with a lower proportion of tubs, pots and trays (RECOUP, 2011). This leaves an enormous amount of residual plastic waste. Some of this is sent to Energy from Waste, but much more is landfilled, taking hundreds of years to degrade.
In the UK, estimated plastic waste in 2010 was 4,500,000,000 kg! (WRAP, 2011) This translates to 142 kg disposed of every second – the same weight as two adults! Much of this plastic waste finds its ways into the sea, and carried by currents congregates where the various currents converge. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the most well known of the floating rubbish gyres; it is 3x the size of the UK. However, there are actually five of them across the globe.
Plastics do not biodegrade, they photodegrade – breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic pieces, contaminating soil, waterways, oceans and entering the food chain when ingested by animals. In the marine environment plastic litter is lethal, causing severe pain and distress, and killing at least 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles every year. Reducing the consumption of plastics packaging is therefore crucial to ensuring the welfare of the planet and maintaining the integrity of the food chain.
Shocking plastic facts
- There are five gyres in the oceans where plastics collect naturally due to currents, but 2/3 of the ocean is filled with plastic [source]
- The largest, called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" has increased by 100 times over in the past 40 years. [source]
- Plastic has not even been around for 100 years and its longevity is estimated to be hundreds to thousands of years! This means that all the plastic that has been ever produced since then is still around, either in landfills, in the oceans or as litter elsewhere. [source]
- The amount of plastic produced from 2000 - 2010 already exceeds the total amount produced during the entire last century.
Thompson, R.C. “Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences. 364.1526 (2009):2153-2166.
- Around 230 million tonnes of plastic were produced worldwide in 2009. This means in the world, 7,293 kg of plastic are produced per second! [source]
- Impacts of marine debris were reported for 663 species and over half of these reports documented entanglement in and ingestion of marine debris. over 80 % of the impacts were associated with plastic debris (2012) [source]
- Albatrosses may mistake red plastic for squid, while sea turtles may mistake plastic bags for jellyfish [source]
- Plastics comprise up to 90% of floating marine debris [source]
- 8,000 plastic bottles go into landfill every second worldwide [source]
- “One of the most serious emerging threats to marine biodiversity,” according to the Convention on Biological Diversity. [source]
IN THE U.K…
- Estimated plastic waste in the UK in 2010 was 4,500,000,000 (4.5 mill tonnes) [source]
- Production of plastic packaging accounts for 35% of the plastic sector [source]
- 2.4 million tonnes per year of packaging waste is generated. Of this, around 1.7 million tonnes is from households. [source]
- We produce and use 20 times more plastic today than we did 50 years ago! [source]
- 8.1 billion thin-gauge (single-use) bags were used by supermarket customers in the UK in 2012 [source]
- In the UK we use 15 million plastic bottles a day [source]
- Over 50% of litter found on UK beaches in 2008 was plastic litter, an increase of more than 120% since 1994 [source]
At ACE we believe in working with individuals, communities and businesses to achieve the common goal of reducing plastic waste. Recycling is important, but it is vital that waste prevention is prioritised and understood throughout our communities.
Through our outreach programs in London we connect to individuals and communities to raise awareness on the importance of reducing plastic and how to easily achieve this. At the same time we make people aware of the power they have as consumers to achieve change through their actions. Businesses, especially food outlets, waste a huge amount of plastic every day. But their choices are shaped by consumer choices, so if we want to see a change in businesses, it must be triggered by the individuals. Their choices can support our work of engaging local businesses to motivate them to reduce their plastic waste by using biodegradable alternatives.
Contact us if you want to know more on how we can support action in your community or business.
Live with Less Plastic – Tips to be Green
- Hang loose - Buy loose fruit and vegetables from a farm shop, farmers market or supermarket rather than ones pre packed in plastic. You can choose just the amount of food you need which might result in less food waste too.
- Go to your local - If you buy meat from a local butcher, you’ll be able to buy products like bacon, sausages and other meats wrapped in a thin plastic bag. This is much less packaging than supermarkets who use a thick plastic or polystyrene tray covered in shrink wrap.
- Go bio-degradable - ACE are working with food businesses across London to choose biodegradable food containers. Take a look here to see how you can live less with plastic!
- Reuse Look for ways to reuse plastic items in your home. Old bread bags, and yoghurt pots can be used for many things.
- Ditch the plastic bag - Over a million plastic bags are consumed per minute worldwide. Take a reusable bag to do your shopping, and in case you have to pop in to the grocers unnoticed, keep a carrier bag with you!
- Stick to one bottle - Use stainless steel bottles when on the go, or glass bottles for the office. If you have a robust plastic bottle, reuse it! You can even take your stainless steel bottle or perhaps own ceramic mug when going for a coffee or tea. Go to www.tapwater.orgto find a network of tap water refilling stations.
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