Posted in Environment, Environmental issues, Nature

Our World: Plastic pollution

Photo by Catherine Sheila on Pexels.com

I walked to a local nature reserve recently and decided to have lunch at its cafe. Until very recently it had just been serving takeaways (because of Covid and the restrictions) but now we could sit inside to eat. I ordered a large cup of tea and was directed to a basket containing tiny plastic cartons of milk.

Plastic cartons

I’ve seen these containers before, usually for takeaway drinks which makes sense. They’re handy and easily portable after all. But surely when sitting indoors an individual reusable, rewashable milk jug would be more eco-friendly, especially at a nature reserve?

Over the years there has been an increase in plastic use. Sometimes there is no alternative (PPE for health workers) but, too often, it is used as a lazy option that is not really needed. Too often I see fruit and vegetables – even bananas! – in supermarkets in plastic bags. Why not have them loose and consumers could pick them up and put them in paper bags? I see tea bags in cardboard boxes which are, in turn, wrapped in plastic.

I don’t doubt that plastic has its place, it’s an incredibly useful material, but I think it’s overused. Maybe the decision-makers think it makes the products fresher or more hygienic, but at what cost to nature? What cost to ourselves?

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Plastic pollution is a massive environmental problem. A lot of plastic ends up in our oceans. Sea creatures such as dolphins, turtles and birds can become injured or entangled by plastic. Or they might mistake it for food – obviously this can have tragic circumstances. Unfortunately these chunks of litter don’t just break down and disappear. When plastic does start breaking down, they end up as microplastics and, as Greenpeace says, “impossible to filter from waste water, they end up in our oceans.” These microscopic pieces of plastic end up in our food chain so we too can become unwitting victims of this pollution.

These miniscule particles are swallowed by tiny creatures such as zooplankton which end up getting eaten by larger animals such as whales. And guess who eats the fish in the oceans – which may also have digested microplastics at some point? That’s right, we humans. It can’t be good for wildlife. It can’t be good for us.

Photo by Catherine Sheila on Pexels.com

As I’ve said I have nothing against plastic itself as a material but I am against its overuse. If less plastic and more sustainable materials were used, I believe the world would be a healthier place. And a healthier world for animals always translates into a healthier world for humans too.

Happily, change can be done. A few years ago, every time I went to a supermarket or any other type of shop, I was automatically given plastic carrier bags, even when I brought my own. Then the Government banned free plastic carrier bags (a rare environmentally friendly decision by political leaders) and it now costs 5p to buy a bag (since raised to 10p). The use of carrier bags has been cut by 95 per cent. I see far fewer plastic bags littering the streets these days. I can only assume the oceans are seeing less of these bags too.

Another victory in the war against plastic pollution is that two charities of which I am a member of (Woodland Trust and RSPB), which once used plastic as magazine wrappers, have swapped to paper and a compostable potato starch product. The latter is a handy bag for my teabags for when they go into the compost heap.

So what can we do individually? On a personal level, I have decided to think twice before buying anything that seems to be needlessly wrapped in plastic. Of course, I can’t escape it but I can ask myself do I really need this? (The fact that this approach will also save me money is a win win for me!) On occasions when I think the company involved really doesn’t need to use plastic, I will send them a polite email. Maybe now is the time to start tweeting them? In fact, I have emailed the charity running the nature reserve and will wait to see what their answer is.

I have included a couple of video links about the issue below.

Vast quantities (of plastic) pollute our world. Much of it flows into the oceans, turning them into a plastic soup. A truckload of plastic enters the ocean every single minute.

Greenpeace

Author:

Interested in environmental issues, wildlife, spirituality, gardening, self-sufficiency and mini-adventures. There are two blogs, one is https://mysabbatical2014.wordpress.com/ and the other, more recent one, is - https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/ ☺️

12 thoughts on “Our World: Plastic pollution

  1. For a long time I have tried to eliminate plastic from my life but like refusing to purchase items made in China, it is an impossibility. Bit by bit the world is coming around to the idea that plastic is not good for anyone but I shudder when I think how much is discarded every day. Hospital waste alone is horrendous. Sadly, I think we are beyond polite letters and emails, but I am an old cynic. Maybe the new generations will manage things better. The “baby boomers” really went off the rails somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very difficult. Even bananas are wrapped in plastic! Maybe people have just got so used to personal convenience that they don’t realise that it’s actually a massive inconvenience where the world is concerned.

      Like

  2. They talk over here of eliminating the plastic grocery store bags, but nothing ever materializes with it … so all talk – no action. What is bad for our wildlife here is when you buy a six-pack of pop, juice, bottled water or beer, those rings which connect the beverages together. The rings come off and are tossed and can strangle birds or turtles and we see horrible pictures where that has happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least that is one thing the UK Government got right. A small charge on a plastic bag makes such a big difference, and now there’s much less plastic bag litter around. I’ve seen adverts about litter showing hedgehogs trapped in the plastic rings you mention. More plastic waste – and dangerous too for wildlife.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We had a couple of interesting wildlife videos lately – one was a buck with a car tire around its neck; one was a Sandhill Crane with a rubber ring like you would see to seal a mason jar and a buck tangled in someone’s backyard hammock. All were rescued successfully but I am sure they were traumatized by the experience. Those plastic rings are deadly and most of the time people toss things next to a garbage can. Terrible and just lazy.

        Liked by 1 person

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