It is getting to the point where nearly everyone (with a conscience) is starting to realise something should be done about the impact of single use plastic on the environment. The constant images of plastic floating in the sea, bottles that will never disappear, and marine life mutilated by our throwaway culture are starting to resonate with people. However, not enough is being done, and society as a whole needs to change the way products are consumed to prevent further damage to the environment.
Many businesses are starting to rethink the use of plastic to reduce their impact on the environment. The Watering Hole in Perranporth recently announced that they’ve ditched plastic straws for more eco-friendly ones. A spokesperson for The Watering Hole told Truthfal: “We decided to stop using plastic straws because they’re bad for the environment. We need to save the oceans.”
It’s not just The Watering Hole who are rethinking their use of plastic; Blue Bar in Porthtowan is also an advocate for the use of biodegradable straws. However, this isn’t even something specific to just Cornish businesses. Bars across the country such as Urban Reef in Boscombe are using environmentally friendly ones, and on an even larger scale, pub giant JD Wetherspoon has put an end to their bartenders automatically putting plastic straws in drinks. They have also pledged to stop the use of plastic straws completely by January 2018, and they too will switch to a less damaging alternative. This is a huge move in the right direction as it means that it isn’t just smaller bars based near the sea that are taking this initiative. Also the influential power of a large chain should begin to set an example for others to follow. The question it leaves is are bars going to go fully plastic-less and also scrap the use of disposable swizzle sticks?
“We hope that in the future more larger businesses will continue to stop using plastic straws. This will encourage smaller businesses to do the same, and contribute to ending the negative impact that plastic has on the environment.”
The vast majority of all marine litter is plastic that was used on land. It is estimated that eight million pieces of plastic enter our oceans every day. The plastic travels from land via wind and rivers until it ends up in the sea. Plastic items like straws that are so easy to instantly throw away, are not so instant to disappear. They will take at least 450 years to break down. Even when plastic items do break down they continue to pollute the oceans. This is due to the chemicals and toxic particles that are left behind.
So what actually counts as single use plastic? Single use plastic is used by millions of people every single day. Items such as plastic bottles, carrier bags, and plastic food packaging are the worst offenders. However items that people often forget to consider include: straws, cups, coffee lids, toothbrushes, and disposable razors. These items are used because they are cheap to manufacture, lightweight, watertight, and practical. Although, is an item really practical if it is leaving behind extremely harmful neurotoxins such as BPA and PVC, and having such a lasting impact on the environment?
Often the plastic doesn’t break down at sea and instead ends up being digested by marine life. This is particularly harmful to species such as turtles who are continually mutilated by straws, and six-pack rings. However species such as seals and dolphins often mistake floating plastic for their usual diet, and are then killed by the consumption of it. Plastic that doesn’t break down doesn’t just affect marine life. Supervisor of Urban Reef Sam Sherring Told Truthfal: “I’m very happy that Urban Reef refuse to use plastic straws. It’s devastating for the ocean, but as a keen surfer I also notice it ruining the otherwise stunning beaches here in the south of England.”
Marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage report that around 5000 items of marine plastic have been found per mile of beach in the UK. This is an incredible amount considering the UK isn’t even one of the top contributors to marine plastic waste. Instead the countries most affected by their own disposable cultures are: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. These countries are the top five contributors in the world to the marine plastic problem, and combined they are accountable for 60% of all plastic waste entering the ocean. These countries are also host to idyllic beaches that are most devastated by plastic washing up ashore.
The issue needs a global effort to begin to rectify the lasting-impact of single use plastic. Consumers need to stop purchasing everyday items such as bottled water, and instead get a reusable plastic, metal or glass bottle to refill themselves. The use of disposable cutlery is something that can easily be avoided, and although the 5p carrier bag charge has helped massively, the use of plastic bags needs to be put to an end completely. Change is happening, and the reconsideration of seemingly insignificant items such as plastic straws is something that needs to continue. Surfers Against Sewage spokesperson Emily Haggett told Truthfal: “We hope that in the future more larger businesses will continue to stop using plastic straws. This will encourage smaller businesses to do the same, and contribute to ending the negative impact that plastic has on the environment.”