Drowning in a sea of plastic

09 March 2017 | Posted in Marine
Drowning in a sea of plastic
Reusable cup (c) Sarah Ward

By Sarah Ward
Living Seas Officer

In 2015, the UK government introduced a five pence charge for plastic carrier bags, bringing about a reduction in their use of around 85% in the first six months. Later this year, the government plans to ban cosmetics and cleaning products containing plastic microbeads.

These bans are great news for our seas as ultimately they’re reducing the amount of plastic being introduced to the marine ecosystem. A large amount of plastic waste ends up in the sea, both accidentally and through improper disposal practices; this poses obvious threats to marine wildlife (not to mention looking unsightly on our beaches!). Whilst I am a supporter of regulations which aim to protect our seas, I also believe that we don’t need to wait for an enforced ban or fee to inspire us to change our habits.

There are a number of small, realistic changes we can all make which will help to reduce waste and consequently the amount of plastic which ends up in our oceans…

  1. Invest in reusable drinks containers. By this I mean water bottles, coffee mugs, insulated flasks. They’re affordable, can be used over and over, and are available in almost any colour or design you could imagine. What’s more, most coffee shops will be happy to serve your coffee in your own mug (rather than their disposable one).
  2. Refuse plastic straws. They have approximately a 20-minute life-span before they’re disposed of, destined to spend several hundred years either in landfill or polluting the ocean. Just say no. Or if you must use one, opt for a paper, bamboo or stainless steel version.
  3. Swap cling-film for reusable containers. Invest in a few of these for storing your leftovers – you’ll find they are better at keeping food fresh, offer an easy way to transport your packed lunch, and will long out-last that roll of cling film in the cupboard.
  4. Opt for plastic-free cotton buds. The plastic sticks of cotton buds are one of the most frequently found items on beach cleans; often a result of being flushed down the toilet. Plastic-free buds are a great way to reduce this – but remember they should still be disposed of in the bin.
  5. Be thoughtful about feminine hygiene. The plastic wrappings and applicators are also frequently found on beach cleans, often as they are incorrectly disposed of – they should never be flushed down the toilet. Consider switching to a more sustainable alternative, such as a menstrual cup.

You can keep up-to-date on the microbead banning process here

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