Single-use plastics are one of the largest environmental concerns of our times. The fact they are convenient, cheap to produce and useful for preserving and transporting foods and other goods, has led to society’s dependence on them.
But this comes at a grave price. Programs such as the BBC’s Blue Planet have shown that the price of convenience is damaging the Earth. A soda bottle disposed of after its use takes 450 years to break down into microplastic. Less than 10% of single-use plastic is recycled and 50% goes straight into landfill. With Londoners purchasing an average of 175 single-use plastic water bottles per person annually the problem is huge.
High rates of disposal come at great cost. The oceans are littered with plastics, PET single-use drinks bottles being one of the main culprits. Rafts of plastic litter are gathering around the world both near and far. This ‘plastic soup’ floats around the ocean surface, eventually making it to the seabed as microplastics.
It’s only relatively recently that the extent of microplastics has been discovered. Not only are they present in the water and ice at the North and South poles, but they’ve been found in the animals living around the world, including the fish we eat. Microplastics are infiltrating more and more of the food chain and getting into our bloodstreams. The effects of microplastics on the body are not yet fully known. This is unknown territory and now is the time to act to reduce the dangers we face.
WHAT CAN WE CAN DO
There are a variety of ways we can help in the fight against plastic pollution.
The first response many have to this problem is to recycle the plastics they use. Whilst this might seem like the best way forward at first, this has many pitfalls. Items destined to be recycled may not end up where they were intended. Recycling is often sold to poorer countries to deal with and then gets burned or littered instead. It also costs more money and energy to process on top of the original costs, so whilst it’s better than landfill it’s not the perfect solution
Different types of plastic can be recycled in different ways. Check what you can recycle where at londonrecycles.co.uk. In addition to recycling services provided by your local council, most supermarkets will now take soft plastics that can’t be recycled elsewhere to be recycled in innovative ways.
If you can’t avoid single-use plastic, it may be possible to safely reuse items where possible. For example, plastic bags, bottles, cups, tableware and even takeaway food packaging may be reused or repurposed in different ways. They can be used for their original purpose or in other areas of life (storage, gardening, etc).
One of the main ways we can stop adding to the plastic mountain is to reduce the amount we use in the first place. When shopping, try to buy products in non-plastic wrappings (many brands now offer cardboard or metal alternatives). Fresh produce can be bought loose and put into a reusable tote bag. Some supermarkets have stopped stocking plastic bags in these aisles altogether.
Zero waste/refill shops are springing up in every borough as people become more conscious of what they’re throwing away. The government is currently consulting about banning the sale of single-use plastics with the earliest possible start date of April 2023.
Reusing more sustainable items is a good way to reduce your impact on the environment. Using a metal, glass or sturdy alternative drinks bottle saves a huge amount of energy and plastic waste.
And with the #OneLess initiative London now has over 100 drinking fountains in public places, dispensing around ONE MILLION refills, thereby preventing hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles from going to landfill – you can find your nearest one HERE.
You can also get some lovely metal or bamboo containers to keep your lunch fresh. These can be used again and again without costing the earth.
There are many ways we can help save our planet, and reducing, reusing or recycling plastics is a great place to start.
Come and find out more about plastics and other simple steps you can take to make a difference at our one-day free festival on the 25th June!
We’ll have lots more fun and interesting activities on the day. We can’t wait to see you there!
For more information about single use plastics go to: