Currently, our oceans harbour eight billion kilograms worth of plastic – that’s over 24 Empire-State-Building-sized loads of rubbish, if that puts it in perspective for you. This problem is expected to continue – scientists say that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, its natural inhabitants.
This is because plastic is non-biodegradable and cannot be turned into nature friendly products as bacteria can’t break it up. However, bacteria can feast on materials like paper, food peels and leaves etc. Which naturally gets absorbed back into the environment. Along with this, throwing plastic aka non-biodegradable waste on the land, the soil becomes less fertile, slowly wrecking the land and affecting wildlife. The plastic then goes on to pollute our rivers, choke our ponds and harm the sea animals’ homes – the ocean. When fish, sea birds and other aquatic mammals inevitably swallow the poison that is plastic, the bacteria in their stomachs can’t break it down which can severely harm the helpless animal or even worse – kill them. The Ocean Conservatory reported that 60% of all seabirds contain plastic and every single sea turtle will be the home to a lucky piece of plastic. Currently over 200 species are affected. But these life-threatening results don’t just affect the wildlife; we are effectively digesting our own plastic we decide to throw in the oceans. Fish eaters could be consuming 11,000 fragments of plastic each year, according to a recent Belgian study.
Even after realising the effect that plastic has on our earth, production continuously grows. Currently, 300 million tons are manufactured per year, a lot of which will end up in the ocean. Only 9% of all plastics ever produced have been recycled as most are not biodegradable and can take over 400 years to decompose. Even then, it isn’t fully degraded, but broken into small enough pieces for marine life to inhale. This means that the packing from your chicken last night is going to outlive you by at least 350 years, affecting wildlife long after we’re here to do anything about it.
The main contributor to all this mess is single-use plastic. Who would have thought a few pieces of cling film could take down the world? Don’t get me wrong, single-use plastic makes life very convenient but it is estimated that 50% of all plastic is used once and then thrown away. Currently, there is no real solution to the plastic apocalypse, yet small changes can make a massive difference.
Here is 20 ways you can help save the planet:
1. Proper recycling of common plastics
Some of the most common recyclables are water and juice bottles, medicine containers and other day-to-day product containers. This type of plastic is called PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) which is actually a plastic resin and form of polyester. Once recycled, PET can be used for polyester carpet fibre, fabric for t-shirts, sheet and film, fibrefill for sleeping bags and winter coats and, to go full circle, turned back into their original product!
Another type of widely recycled plastics is HDPE (High-density polyethylene plastics). These are heavier plastics such as milk cartons, shampoo bottles and bleach containers. This type of plastic is usually recycled into toys, rope and piping!
Most recycling centres accept these types of plastics, along with others like vinyl, Polyethylenes like cling film and sandwich bags, some food containers and polystyrene items like coffee cups and insulation. Although plastic is a relatively cheap and easy product to make which is extremely useful, many people are just not recycling these items – so why not find alternatives!
2. Re-usable water bottle
Instead of re-purchasing bottles of water over and over again, why not fork out for one re-usable bottle you can fill with the tap, it will probably pay for itself in the long run. This one can also double as a flask!
3. Travel coffee cup
There are an estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups thrown away each year. Why not buy one coffee cup, which can be used on the go, whether you fill it with your own brew or your favourite chain’s you’ll be saving the planet one coffee at a time. A lot of coffee shops actually give discount to those with their own cup!
4. Eco-friendly party décor
If you’re planning a party – try to plan eco-friendly. Instead of balloons why not try some cardboard bunting?
5. Washable mesh produce bags
These mesh bags have the power to eliminate over 1000 plastic fruit and veg bags over their lifetime!
6. Reusable sealable food bag
These bags are cold and heat resistant – perfect for the freezer or microwave. It’s unimaginable how much freezer bags we could save in buying reusable ones.
7. Reusable straws
The famous reusable straw! It’s estimated that 8.3 billion straws pollute the world’s beaches, why not reduce your lifetime’s worth and have your own reusable straws – at such a low price is there any reason not to?
8. Beeswax wrap
An alternative for cling film, keeps your food fresh without any pollution.
9. Bulk buy individually wrapped foods
Why not head to your local Costco and get large bags of pasta and cereal to save yourself money and lessen the amount of smaller portions individually wrapped!
10. Wooden disposable cutlery
If there's a time in which you must have disposable cutlery, avoid plastic at all costs. Buy some wooden cutlery which is actually a little nicer looking anyway!
11. Steel compost bin
The eco-friendly factor may be slightly ruled out if you’re using a plastic compost bin – try a steel one!
12. Wooden hangers
13. Biodegradable bin bags
So you’re not making more rubbish when throwing away rubbish!
14. Bamboo chopping board
To put it in perspective, a bamboo chop stick can completely decompose in 180 days!
15. Bamboo hair brush
16. Wooden tooth brush
17. Silicone ice trays
Silicone is much more durable than plastic – making this ice tray an eco-investment.
18. Soap nuts
Replace those big plastic detergent containers for a small fabric bag and toss a few soap nuts in your washing machine. The nuts contain saponin which can be used like soap! They can also be used in 3 or 4 washes, making the cost per wash much lower. This 300g bag is enough for minimum 100 washes and at only £5.99.
19. Organic cotton buds
Cotton buds are often mistaken for food by our sea friends, switch to an organic bud to save our sea life and beaches.
20. Degradable coffee capsules
Some companies like Nespresso have ways for customers to return their capsules for recycling. Otherwise, buy biodegradable ones like these!