The plastic in our oceans has been a well-documented threat for quite some time now. But not only is the problem far from resolved, it is a threat to life both below and above the waves.
Globally, we are creating more than 300 million tonnes of plastic every year, as it is versatile and cheap for packaging. In 2015, plastic production reached 322 million tonnes. To help put that dizzying amount into perspective, the plastic created in 2015 alone is the same weight as 900 Empire State Buildings.
To investigate the issue further, 8 yard skip supplier Reconomy has created the following article.
Our dependence on plastic
Plastic is involved nearly everywhere in our daily lives. But around 50% of that plastic is estimated to be used once before being binned. Only 12% of plastic is recycled, ranging from plastic bags to plastic bottles. When we looked to see where the greatest amount of plastic is being used, not surprisingly it came to packaging which accounted for 40% of its use.
The world uses an estimated 500 billion plastic bags yearly. However, the UK government has taken a step in the right direction by making large shops (those with over 250 employees) in England charge 5p for carrier bags. But has this helped? Since the scheme was introduced in 2015, England saw that the number of plastic bags used went down by 80% which has benefitted this environmental issue. Currently there is around 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic currently in our waters.
Beneath the waves
By 2050, the plastic in our oceans will outweigh the number of fish, claims Dame Ellen MacArthur. Not only does this have a threat on the existing sea creatures, such as turtles (at least 50% have consumed plastic), it also will have a huge impact on their habitats which could cause great damage to different environments below the water and create everlasting problems.
Reports show that more than 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the sea every year. This is a staggering figure that leads to 1 in 3 marine mammals being tangled in marine litter. It’s also been found that 90% of seabirds have pieces of plastic wedged into their stomachs — a problem caused by those on land affecting those off land.
Of the plastic that ends up in our oceans, approximately 20% of it comes from offsite locations and ships. The rest is blown from land to the sea by strong winds, and some is caused by illegal dumping. Research shows that plastic usually gathers where the ocean current meets, forming plastic islands that sea creatures sometimes use as transportation that could move them far away from their usual habitat.
Plastic contains a number of chemicals, but it also absorbs existing toxins from the air. This can have an impact on both land and sea life. After a while, the plastic in the sea will release chemicals and the fish in the ocean will potentially inhale them – resulting in a contaminated food supply chain.
Dealing with the problem
The waste you produce impacts the options you have to help reduce plastic waste and save our oceans. If you’re a business, the most common and effective way to reduce plastic pollution is to have a waste management service in place that can help you reduce and track the changes your business makes when it comes to waste. However, there are more methods that the everyday person can follow to make a difference:
- Recycling—a simple solution that can make a huge impact. If you recycle, you are immediately keeping plastics from entering our oceans and reducing the amount of new plastic that goes into circulation.
- Prevention – by asking if the use of plastic is needed, or could an alternative material be used.
- Litter picking—to reduce the amount of plastics going into our oceans, you could participate in litter picking on your nearest beach which will make a huge difference.
- Microbeads— the UK has recently banned microbeads in rinse-off products like facewash and toothpaste. Microbeads are tiny plastic particles and they make their way into the ocean through sewer systems. They are still present in some make-up items, so keep an eye out.