I saw a really interesting infographic the other day. It was by an American website, detailing the impact that plastic has on our planet. Now, I consider myself pretty up on these things, but the some of the statistics highlighted are frankly scary.
Did you know, for example, that every year America produces enough plastic film to shrink wrap the entire state of Texas? That’s 268,820 square miles! And cling film is notoriously unrecyclable.
Or that in 2019 more than 300 MILLION tons of plastic will be produced?
Or that the Average westerner throws away more than 600 times their own bodyweight in plastic in their lifetime?
Or, here’s a frightening one – 92% of Americans over the age of 6, test positive for BPA. BPA is the chemical building block that makes up a huge number of plastics and has been linked to behavioural and health problems, including brain and prostate gland disorders, foetal abnormalities, heart disease and type II diabetes, among other things. You’ll see reusable drinks bottles, picnic sets and cookware proudly labelled ‘BPA free’, and yet still most Americans have it in them… Which would imply that, sharing a similar lifestyle, Brits aren’t much better.
The point of all this is, plastic is endemic. And I can’t help but think that if we don’t do something about soon, it’s not just going to choke the planet, but it’s going to choke us too.
And yes, there is a growing movement at the moment to start change. Plastic shopping bags are now paid for in the UK – but that doesn’t stop 10 billion of the things being used every week throughout the world. We’re trying to find ways to stop plastic waste making its way to the ocean, but 100,000 marine mammals are still dying every year, thanks to ocean debris. Much of that debris takes the form of plastic bottles. If we switched to re-useable drinking vessels, we could each save 100 plastic bottles a year, and yet one million plastic bottles continue to be purchased every minute.
These are things that we can all change. We don’t need to use plastic carrier bags if we carry cloth ones with us. If you don’t carry a shoulder bag, it’s simple enough to keep one in your back pocket and a stash in the car (assuming you drive) for big shops. We certainly don’t need them for home deliveries. We don’t need to use take-out, ‘disposable’ coffee cups, if we remember to take our own, nicer, safer, drip-free thermal-walled cups with us. And with more and more drinking fountains and sports bottle refill stations springing up around the country, we can ditch the plastic bottles for good.
As individuals, it’s our duty to cut back on plastic waste. As businesses, it’s our duty to facilitate that process, by offering refillable water to our staff, customers and guests.
Infographics like this one frustrate the hell out of me because it could be so easy to solve the plastic problem. We all just need to do a little bit more, and use a little bit less. Just #OneLess plastic bottle apiece could make a world of difference.