I recently spent a week’s holiday in sunny Santorini, and while I was there I was hit with the serious reality of plastic pollution. Although Santorini is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I have travelled to, the amount of plastic that washed up on the beaches shocked me.
It made me more aware than ever of how important it is to drastically reduce our plastic consumption. The impact that plastic pollution is having on the environment and marine life is devastating. Our excessive waste is not only impacting Greece. The whole world is at risk.
I found myself swimming amongst plastic bags and I spent a lot of time fishing plastic and pieces of abandoned fishing net out of the water. This took away from the beautiful, carefree atmosphere of Santorini. It also made the seriousness of the issue even more real for me.
We are recklessly filling our oceans with plastic we don’t need.
Around 570,000 tonnes of plastic are dumped into the oceans every year – the equivalent of 33,800 plastic bottles every minute. It is choking ocean life and birds. The pollution is so dire in some areas that wildlife can no longer thrive. Species are dying out, with deadly implications for our environment. Every species is vital to the health of the whole ecosystem.
Why is there so much plastic in the oceans?
First of all, because of the amount of single-use plastic we consume. Plastic bags, water bottles, milk cartons, etc – all of these products take hundreds of years to break down. When we throw them away, they often end up in the sea because there is not enough space in landfills.
Secondly, when we discard non eco-friendly products down drains and toilets, such as cotton buds, face wipes, tampons, etc, they eventually end up in the sea as microplastics. These are tiny pieces of plastic that result from plastic that has broken down but not decomposed. Unsuspecting animals swallow the tiny pieces and the toxins kill them over time.
80% of microplastics come from land-based sources such as plastic bags and bottles. These are things that we can easily and quickly cut out of our lives with just a little bit of thoughtfulness.
It might seem impossible to escape plastic but more and more alternatives are becoming available.
The reduction of single-use plastic is vital to our planet and people are finally starting to get the message. Organisations such as WWF and Greenpeace are encouraging people to ditch plastic straws, cups, packaging etc to reduce the waste that ends up in the sea.
There are also many shops and businesses going plastic free. For example, where I live in Edinburgh, zero-waste shops such as The Eco Larder are doing their bit for the environment by cutting out all plastic. As an alternative, they use glass jars and recyclable fabric bags to store and package products. There are plastic conscious shops like this all over the world and it is easy to find one local to you online. Supporting sustainable shops will help them to grow, and it will become more of the norm for a shop to be plastic free.
Small changes are vital.
We can all make small changes in our lives, such as using a reusable bottle, a reusable coffee cup, or reusable pads to remove makeup. Not only will you reduce your plastic consumption and live a more sustainable life, you will also save money. Businesses are also making big changes. This year, Glastonbury music festival made the decision to go plastic free. McDonalds has also announced that as of September 2019, they will be scrapping the plastic lids that come with McFlurrys.
Decisions like these must continue. Becoming more sustainable is extremely important and sometimes we need a reminder. The ocean makes up two thirds of our planet. Reducing our plastic waste is one small sacrifice we can make to keep it alive.
We can all help our planet recover from the damage we have inflicted on it – while there is still time.