By Sarah Ward
Living Seas Officer
It’s natural to feel that you’d like to be remembered after you’re gone. Sadly, it seems that the legacy that all of us are going to be leaving behind is a huge pile of plastic waste.
Plastic is hugely versatile and durable, which makes it great for all manner of applications. These qualities of plastic however, make it a huge problem for the environment – in particular for the sea where sadly a lot of it ends up. Plastics don’t biodegrade: they simply break down into smaller and smaller pieces, making it more and more difficult to see. Some plastics also have chemical additives which can leach out of them into the natural environment.
Unfortunately, it is hard to get away from the disposable culture in which we now live – plastic is everywhere! The sad truth of it is that it is more costly and time-consuming to live a life free of single-use plastic so it’s understandable that individuals and businesses opt for the cheaper and easier option. It makes economic sense, right?
With a short-term perspective, you’d be correct in saying yes, but we need to think long-term. A research paper worked out what the monetary value of our natural environment is; they estimated that services provided by coral reefs alone are worth $353,249 per hectare per year – imagine the cost of replicating all those services. We also get around 70% of that lovely oxygen we take for granted from marine plants in the ocean – it’s hard to imagine what the world would be like if that was taken away. Even if you don’t realise it, ocean health affects us all – every last one of us!
Luckily there are steps being taken to try and cull the amount of plastic being consumed: we now have a charge for plastic bags and are awaiting a ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics. A tax on some single-use plastics has also been discussed in the Government's Autumn budget.
There’s a lot more that we as individuals can do to help – and lots of small acts can amount to make a big difference. For more information about reducing your plastic consumption please click here. Many individuals and local groups make effort to clean up their local beaches and waterways – a #2minutebeachclean is a great way to get involved in this.
This winter, we’re showing our love for our coasts by putting on some local beach cleans across Sussex which we’d love for you to get involved with. Not only will we be clearing up the beaches, we’ll also be sorting the refuse to ensure as much as possible is put into recycling schemes.