When you throw something away, I assume you haven’t considered where ‘away’ actually is, have you? There is only so much waste our world can take before it becomes too much, and it ends up looking like a scene from WALL-E. This is why recycling is so important! Ensuring that you are sorting your waste into the appropriate bins, and not mixing them up makes all the difference when it comes to saving our planet. Actively recycling correctly means that the reusable plastic stays in circulation, and it has a lifespan between 10 and 10,000 years! Comparing this to single-use plastic, like plastic bottles, which are not re-usable, can take up to 450 years to decompose in our landfill. It may come as a surprise to you that a lot of the items found in land fill carry the recyclable logo (the arrows symbol)! Are we too lazy to care? Each year around 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide, and half of this is single use plastic. This amount weighs nearly the same as the whole of man kind.
Life below the ocean
How much do you love going on holidays, soaking in the vitamin D and taking a nice swim in the picture-perfect ocean to cool down? Have you ever looked below the surface and recognised the damage that humans are doing on the wildlife in the ocean? 14 million tonnes of domestic waste finds it way into the oceans every year, affecting nearly 700 species. The ocean covers 70% of the earth and it produces over 50% of the oxygen that we intake. It also absorbs 1/4 of the carbon dioxide that humans create through burning fossil fuels. The ocean provides us with many benefits that we must not take for granted, these include:
Providing more oxygen than the Amazons
Produces food for the population
Regulating the climate of the earth
Knowing what we know now and how important the oceans are, we must take action to protect and preserve our oceans, and care for them as they do for us.
The 2030 Agenda for Suitable Development (UN) have created a blueprint explaining how they hope to improve the earth, both ethically and environmentally. At the heart of it are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their goals include improving many amazing things both on land and below water, and specifically, this article is focusing on ‘climate action’. All of these can be achieved but specifically responsible consumption and production through everyone doing their part to combat the amount of plastic used. We can do this by making a conscious effort to use less single-use plastic where possible.
Life on land
In regards to how plastic affects the earth outside of the oceans, there are many ways we can visibly see the detrimental consequences for ourselves. Too often I have driven down a country road and seen fly-tipping, with so many none recyclable plastic bags and other items that can not be recycled. Not only is this such an eyesore to the beautiful landscape, but chlorinated plastics also release toxic chemicals into the surrounding soil. If this happens, it could be detrimental.
Microplastics find their way into water systems, which could make us seriously ill. This also means that less food can be grown as the ground has lower pH levels, meaning vital organisms can not fully nourish the soil. It is also known that when plastic heats up, it releases harmful greenhouse gasses, which ultimately means that the planet is getting hotter. As the planet gets hotter, the plastics release methane and ethylene, increasing the rate of climate change, and enhancing this toxic cycle.
How can we help?
What can we do to fight the inevitable downfall of our planet? Firstly, there are so many up and coming small businesses that are trying to improve and preserve the health of our planet. Recently, bee wax wraps have been on the rise, which have been created to replace the use of cling film. Cling film is a single-use plastic wrap, that is supposed to keep food fresh. However, there have been some videos arising where you can see that the bee wax wraps keep fresh produce fresher for longer then the cling film.
Some concerns have been raised regarding the cost of these items, as they can be quite expensive. Although they are more expensive than cling film, they can be used continuously for up to a year, opposed to clingfilm which you can only use once. They are mainly made from cotton and are soaked in wax to make them sticky, waterproof and you can get them in really nice patterns! Once they have come to the end of their life, you can either buy more wax and make them fresh again, or if they can not be restored, they can be used as an eco-friendly fire starter!
An innovation for feminine health has introduced the use of menstrual cups, reusable pads and pants. This is such a female power move, and an amazing step forward to reduce plastic use. As well as this, there are now biodegradable, eco-friendly and organic hair ties which is an amazing alternative to the regular hair ties that are constantly getting washed up on shore and harming wildlife.
Another way to help prevent the downfall of our planet is using other reusable items like refillable bottles. This seems pretty obvious but people still aren't taking this critical step forward. There has also been a push towards reusable metal and glass straws, as well as paper straws which can be recycled and put back into the system as a different product.
How to shop sustainably
Supermarkets like ASDA have made a push in the right direction by introducing ‘refill stations’. This means you can take your reusable tub into the store, and choose your groceries without collecting any non-recyclable waste! Some people can be close-minded when it comes to reusable goods, and they can’t see how these revolutionary products can help, especially if other people aren’t cooperating too. This is why the UN’s SDG agenda is extremely important.
Our planet will continue to nourish us, protect us and help us, and if we treat it with the respect it deserves. Look out for the arrow logo! ‘Away’ really isn't too far away.