It’s World Environment Day today, and the focus is on how to beat plastic pollution. Plastic is around us everywhere in our daily lives as consumers – plastic drinks bottles, plastic bags, food containers, cling film, coffee cups. And as parents we probably come across it even more than the average individual. Think of the extra food we need to buy, baby wipes, nappies, straws for drinks, balloons, party bags, plastic toys, cartons of milk. When we go travelling or exploring, the logistics of getting out there as a family often outshadow the need to cut back on plastic. We go for speed and ease over sustainability. In this post, we look at easy ways to beat plastic pollution and adventure responsibly.
Why is plastic bad?
Plastic takes many many years to rot. A nappy or a plastic water bottle takes 450 years. Some plastics can be recycled, but only 9% of plastic that could be recycled does, so the rest ends up in landfill or the natural environment.
Millions of tonnes of plastic waste ends up in our oceans, and in the stomachs of large marine life such as turtles, whales and sea birds as they cannot tell the difference between plastic and food. Eating plastic is usually fatal for marine life, increasing vulnerability and causing disruption to the delicate food chain and ecosystem. Plastic fragments are often found in fish too, which means we will be eating plastic. It is not yet known what damage this is doing. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
This article from the BBC highlights why plastic is so bad. Some welcome good news is that through campaigning, the UK has pledged to cut out single use plastics by 2020, and introduce a bottle return scheme.
How can I beat plastic pollution?
11 simple steps to help you and your family beat plastic pollution and adventure responsibly:-
- Take reusable water bottles and/or coffee cups and check where you are going to see if they have drinkable water for refills. Don’t buy drinks in plastic bottles. If you are travelling, think about taking purification tablets or system.
- Leave a stash of tote or canvas bags in the car. Don’t waste your 5p on a plastic bag.
- Take a packed lunch. Don’t buy prepacked food from the supermarket. It’s cheaper to bring your own too. Take tupperware to make and store more food if you need to.
- Wrap up food in foil, not cling film.
- Buy a reusable straw and say no to straws given out.
- Take metal knives and forks if you are camping, or a spork. Don’t pick up the reusable ones.
- Go for reusable wipes, not baby wipes, or take a sponge for cleaning. Don’t automatically go for the easy baby wipe.
- If you are overnighting, take a bamboo toothbrush.
- If you are travelling, take a soap bar to use, and try not to take all the tiny plastic refills bottles.
- Ditch the baby bath products. Kids just need water and a good scrub. A bit of mud is healthy anyway, isn’t it!
- Ladies, go for a menstrual cup. Far less fiddly than tampons and sanitary pads if you are on the move too.
- Take your littler home. Obviously. Unfortunately many do not. On our four month challenge, we are collecting whatever rubbish we find and removing it. We picked up three water bottles, two crisp packets and a chewy bar wrapper on first challenge climbing Pen y Fan and saw two dog poos left wrapped in bags, but not taken away. Disgusting!
What environmental causes can I follow that help to beat plastic pollution?
Support Refill, a national tap water campaign that aims to make refilling your bottle as easy, convenient and cheap as possible by introducing refill points on every street.
Surfers against Sewage offer tips and advice for beach clean ups, plus a number of plastic reduction initiatives.
Join the Plastic Patrol to collect plastic across the UK, and share data so we can start to see the extent of the problem across our country.
What else can I do to help beat plastic pollution?
Sign a petition to get supermarkets to stop wrapping food in plastic.
Spread awareness through social media, and encourage others to do the same.