Plastics, Waste & Recycling

We’ve all seen what plastic is doing to our wildlife, oceans and countryside.  Thousands of tonnes of plastic litter end up every year in our streets, our rivers, and our beaches. Around one million seabirds and 100,000 turtles and marine mammals such as dolphins, whales and seals are killed by plastic litter every year. Much of this plastic is single-use, and has often only been used for few minutes. It really is waste!

Most single-use throwaway plastic is simply unneccessary. We’ve all got to start somewhere – so why not here. Decide to act, and record your action. There’s ideas on where to start below.

First step: 

Say NO to unnecessary plastic bags, plastic straws, cutlery and water bottles. Get your own reusable bottle and travelling tea/coffee cup.

Next steps:

 ‘Deplastic’ your shower or bathroom – find the alternatives (such as shampoo bars) that mean less / no plastic.  And then try the same in the kitchen!

Avoid single-use packaging! Take your own paper or cloth bags (or reuse plastic bags if you’ve got them)  Many fruit / vegetables are available loose as well as packaged in some stores so choose the loose ones. It’s that easy. Better still –  go to shops or local markets where paper bags rather than plastic are normally used.

Taking it further:

So how bad is it? This is the big challenge! If you’ve got the space, collect your plastic waste in a separate bag for a week. Then take some or all of the actions above and after two weeks do another separation of plastics for a week. How much emptier is the bag?

Can you help create a plastic-free community? The excellent ‘Surfers Against Sewage’ (SAS) organisation (who successfully campaigned for sewage-free beaches fifteen years ago) are running a ‘Plastic Free Communities’ programme, and over 500 local areas have signed up to work on this.  Action is developing in Oxfordshire – find out more from SAS hereor email to find out about local plans.

Plastic – not so fantastic

Once hailed as a wonder material, attitudes are changing as the scourge of single-use plastic increasingly litters our urban and rural landscapes, drifts in our oceans and watercourses, and is a hazard to wildlife. Some types of plastic pose a threat to human health in their use and disposal. Discarded plastic, made from fossil fuels, doesn’t biodegrade but over time can split into tiny pieces which linger in the environment or get eaten by wildlife.

Globally, plastic pollution is now recognised as a major threat to the environment, people and wildlife. This has led to calls for tighter regulations for the disposal of plastics. Some changes are already happening. The EU has passed legislation banning single-use plastic by 2021. The TV programme,‘Blue Planet’ mobilised public attention, reminding us that our actions have consequences, be it seabirds and marine animals with a bellyful of plastic, or huge rafts of plastic waste found in some of the remotest places on earth.

Plastic has its uses but our consumerist culture relies on too much single-use plastic, often used briefly and then discarded. Think of plastic bags, disposable cutlery, straws and drinks cups. The design of products can hinder reuse or recycling by combining different materials. And then there is over-packaging – everything wrapped in copious amounts of plastic. Mix this with consumer confusion about what can and can’t be recycled, different collection schemes and apathy, and it becomes evident why so much plastic ends up in landfill or incinerators.          

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