Our tired ocean can’t hide her bags (part 1)

I, along with 10.3 million other people, watched that final harrowing episode of Blue Planet II. This rallying cry broke open a long overdue discussion our global plastic crisis. Following news that plastic had not just reached the pristine arctic1, but the very depths of our oceans2, through every level of the marine food chain, and even onto our dinner-plates3, the UN declared a planetary crisis4.

Action is, thankfully, taking place. In 2016 microbeads were banned from UK cosmetics following a Greenpeace petition signed by over 140,000 people5. Unfortunately, new research has revealed that filter-feeders, which include some of the most charismatic members of our oceans, may be disproportionally effected by existing microbeads, and for them, it might be too late6.  Don’t despair yet, it’s not all bad news! Countries across the world, including Indonesia the second-largest plastic contaminating country, are pledging to reduce, or even eliminate, plastic waste by 20257– a massive, ambitious but positive undertaking.

In the spirit of change, for lent this year, I decided that instead of giving up my beloved chocolate, I would instead give up plastic. Little did I realise how naïve of me this was. Heading straight for the vegetable isle in Tesco I was alarmed to find that even the stand-alone vegetables have a plastic sticker, the pasta boxes, a plastic window, and every piece of fruit was wrapped in a soft-plastic case. Things were more positive at my local greengrocers, where I managed to buy some of my essentials but, following a meagre supper, I realised that there was no way I could sustain this diet for 46 days. I got thinking, and decided that giving up non-recycle waste was my next best option.

Everyone I spoke to seemed to have a different opinion about what could, and could be recycled. Coloured plastics, cardboard and foil were all thrown into question, and the internet was even more ambiguous. I headed to www.recyclenow.com for answers and what I found shocked me. The good news: cardboards, including cereal boxes and punnets, paper, and plastic bottles are a go. The bad? Sheffield City Council does not process the plastic packaging we put in our big-blue bins. Does this mean Sheffield, one of ‘the greenest cities in the UK’, is putting its plastic packaging in landfill? What happens with our plastic pots, trays and tubs, according to my thorough internet research, is a mystery, but I desperately hope that they are sent somewhere else for processing, otherwise our well-intentioned efforts are perhaps all in vain. I hope someone could shed some light on this issue for me, as I simply refuse to believe that in this 21st Century recycling-revolution that recyclable plastics could still be ending up in our oceans.

 

Image taken from https://www.recyclenow.com/local-recycling to show what we should be putting in our blue bins.

 

However, with the internet so awash with conspiracy theories and ambiguity, I decided to, once again, change tack. My next target? Single-use plastics.

 

  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42947155
  2. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/plastic-found-in-75-per-cent-of-deep-ocean-fish-807rwpj0p
  3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43115486
  4. https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3022550/un-decrees-ocean-plastic-a-planetary-crisis
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/08/petition-urges-uk-government-to-ban-plastic-microbeads
  6. http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(18)30009-0?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0169534718300090%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
  7. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43115486
  8. https://www.recyclenow.com/local-recycling