Blog by Sara
Young Community Champion
Plastic is one of the main culprits for the pollution in our seas and oceans. It is nearly impossible to decompose plastic because most bacteria can’t break them down. UV light from the sun’s rays can break it down but it takes a very long time. When plastic does break down into smaller pieces after thousands of years, it doesn’t decompose into useful nutrients and instead turns into infinitely smaller pieces which are known as microplastics. These act as magnets for toxic substances when in the water.
There is still much to be done at the government and large corporation level, but a wave of change is happening when it comes to individual action 💙
So what is the solution for reducing plastic pollution?
In the UK we use an average of 7 million coffee cups a day and only 17,500 cups out of those are recycled. This means the vast majority end up getting incinerated or in landfills. As critics rightly point out, this is an unnecessary waste of valuable natural resources. It is no foreign fact that we are now using resources meant for other generations and at this moment we are over using Earth by 175% which means that we need an extra 1.75% of the planet to be able to support our consumption of resources. After reading these statistics, substituting single-use coffee cups with a mug from home or a reusable takeaway cup doesn’t even seem up for discussion.
Another thing you can do is buy in bulk. A lot of the time buying in bulk also results in paying less money than when you buy everything individually. When buying your fruit and veg, don’t buy it in bags from supermarkets and buy from the weekly farmer’s market so you can reduce the plastic while also supporting local businesses.
If you’re one of those people that love your take-out meals during the week, try and cut back on them as the containers that they come in are harmful to the environment and so are the doggy bags. Cooking at home is not only healthier but avoids using plastic. When getting your takeaways, tell the restaurant in the delivery/special instructions to not provide you with plastic cutlery or provide with biodegradable cutlery.
Another of the easiest things that you can do is stop buying bottled water. Every year close to 20 million plastic bottles are thrown away. Carry a reusable water bottle and you’ll never have to worry about buying overpriced bottled water in the supermarket while helping the environment too.
Packaging is the prime suspect for plastic pollution and a vast majority of supermarkets still don’t have plastic packaging that is fully recyclable. Of course no one person has the power to change that, but if the bulk of the people start giving feedback to these brands, they will have the motivation to work harder on it. You can also start visiting supermarkets such as Iceland that are making their packaging eco-friendly. If their sales increase, it will increase competition for the other supermarkets and maybe they will respond to feedback and improve their packaging.
Another R that Sustainable Merton champions is to REFUSE plastic in the first place because saying no is a good place to start fighting back. REFUSING to have plastic cutlery in restaurants and cafes etc is reducing your plastic usage and the world's one utensil at a time. Saying no to plastic bags in supermarkets and bringing your own is another way of putting your foot down for the planet. An example of this in action is the fact that plastic straws are now banned and have been replaced with alternatives such as paper/wooden. When the majority of people say no to plastic, the amount of plastic that is manufactured will be reduced. Amazingly, volumes have already begun to decrease because people are starting to feel more conscious about their habits in the household, and this has been a motivator to change their behaviours.
These actions are very simple and very easy to add to your routine and make a habit. But if you want to learn more about the impact of our actions on the oceans and why we are all part of the solution, I'd recommend watching Sir David Attenborough’s documentary Blue Planet, or the documentary on Netflix called Seaspiracy which highlights the devastating impact of overfishing. When we are more aware of an issue we care more, and when we care more, we feel motivated to act. Together we can have the greatest impact.