It’s World Oceans’ Day, and with summer holidays approaching, it’s the time of year many of us connect with the sea.
But the tide is turning, we’ve been moved by Blue Planet and the staggering statistics about plastic in the ocean. 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year and 50% of this is single-use – crikey. It’s estimated that eight million tons end up in our oceans each year.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the oceans could weigh more than the entire fish population. Animals mistake plastic for food - it’s found in a third of UK fish.
We, like many people are keen to do something positive and to live with much less plastic. That seems to be the key - less is more! If this is strikes a chord with you, below are some tips we found helpful.
Drink bottle. Apparently 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute and only about 50% of these are recycled. They are one of the most frequently washed up plastics, taking an average of 450 years to decompose. So your reusable water bottle is not a drop in the ocean.
The Refill scheme is encouraging eateries across the UK to offer free refills. They have an app to help you find your nearest. www.refill.org.uk
Coffee cup. As the quest to find a recyclable solution continues, this issue has had much recent publicity. Some coffee shops now sell reusable cups directly, and many (Pret, Starbucks, Costa, Greggs) offer a discount for using them, so be sure to ask!
Plastic drinking straws. Ditch them if you can. Or use paper or metal varieties if you can’t.
Fork and spoon. If you have spares packed in your bag, you can avoid disposables.
Bags and pots. The 5p bag charge introduced in 2015 has led to a 85% reduction of bags. UK scientists have reported that this is noticeable on our shores. The next step is to take your own containers for meat, fish, cheese and deli items. In addition to the larger reusable bags, you can buy or make smaller ones to select the unpackaged fruit and veg. You could also consider a fruit and veg box delivery scheme if it suits.
Teabags. We’ve been composting them for years not knowing that many brands contain plastic. Look for those that don’t, or try loose leaf tea and a metal strainer.
Ladies hygiene products. Again, many of the top brands contain plastic - up to 90%. Try a biodegradable brand like Natracare. It costs about the same and is available from Waitrose and health shops. And remember, only ever flush the 3 Ps! (Pee, poo and paper).
Cotton buds. Frequently found on our beaches. Look for brands that have replaced the plastic stick with cardboard.
Soap & shampoo. Consider swopping liquid soap for good old-fashioned soap bars with paper wrapping. A great variety of soap bars are re-emerging.
Cling film. Consider using greaseproof paper or even reusable beeswax wraps (they are not as weird as they sound).
Safety razors. With a long history, these are enjoying a revival. A reusable metal handle joins with longer lasting metal blades. Google this and you’ll find many options and a very considerable cost saving.
Responsible Disposal. Think about how you dispose of items you have finished with. Try a local recycling plant. If they are still working, consider whether they can be taken to local charity shops, repair shops www.repaircafe.org, or put on freecycle.org or local selling pages on Facebook etc.
Clear litter. Take a piece of litter home to be recycled. Maybe even two. Or two minutes worth.
Talk about it. Share ideas. Share plastic goods. Buy second hand.
Make your opinion heard. Tell your local MP that the government could be doing more and doing it quicker. Make your local supermarket aware if you’re not happy with the amount of plastic that they’re using to wrap products that could be sold loose. Customer is king in retail and they’ll be quicker to implement new processes if they realise the scale of the Customer dissatisfaction.
No More Plastic by Martin Dorey, founder of #2minutebeachclean is a short, easy to read guide that was the source of much of the above.
These websites are also handy if you want to do some further reading:
T-Shirt and image from Selfridges: Project Ocean Campaign.