Fighting the Rising Tide of Plastic Pollution

@Troy Mayne

By Melissa Hobson

When David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II aired in October 2017, it opened many people’s eyes to the horrifying impact of plastic pollution on our oceans and inspired the nation to act - before it’s too late. 

According to the WWF, there was a 50% reduction in marine life between 1970 and 2012. Similarly, the Marine Megafauna Foundation - a charity dedicated to protecting endangered marine life through pioneering research, empowering education initiatives and sustainable conservation methods - has seen more than a 90% decline in manta and mobula ray sightings in southern Mozambique (according to data from 2003-2016).

Mariana Coelho, MMF’s Mozambique Country Director, said: “It’s so sad to see the destructive impact human activities - such as industrial overfishing, unintended bycatch, plastics and other pollution - can have on marine life. If we don’t act now, the oceans risk facing a ‘sixth mass extinction’ caused by humans so public support and action is vital in reversing this trend.”

In response to overwhelming public demand - dubbed by some “The Blue Planet effect” - many companies are now trying to minimise their own impact: from this year, Waitrose will no longer offer disposable coffee cups, both the BBC and Sky have committed to removing single-use plastics from operation by 2020 and all McDonald’s packaging will be made from sustainable materials by 2025. 

The UK government will spend £61.4m on fighting plastic pollution through research, curbing environmental pollution caused by manufacturing and better waste management. This follows the success of 2015’s 5p plastic bag charge which has resulted in the purchase of single-use plastic bags falling by around 90%. According to Michael Gove, the UK’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the levy has “been one of the most popular taxes ever introduced by this Government - or indeed any government.” 

While the actions of large organisations can make a huge difference, you too can have a huge impact. So what can you do to help? 

Support marineconservation charities 
If you care about the ocean, pledge your support to a marine conservation NGO to help them continue doing their amazing work. For example, you could help the team at MMF by becoming a member, making a donation, taking part in a fundraising event or even volunteering.

Eat sustainable fish
In a nutshell, we’re eating more fish than our oceans can cope with - the stocks of many species of fish have declined significantly and other sea creatures (like turtles, dolphins and birds) are accidentally caught as part of the fishing process. You don’t necessarily need to give up seafood altogether but it’s crucial for us all to think more carefully about whether the types of fish we’re eating are responsibly sourced. Things like MSC’s blue fish label and the Good Fish Guide app are really helpful here. 

Buy a reusable plastic bottle 
(and actually use it!) 
Globally, 20,000 single-use plastic bottles were sold per second in 2016, according to the Daily Telegraph, and a recent survey for Keep Britain Tidy and BRITA revealed that only one in five people who own a reusable plastic bottle actually use them. If everyone used their bottles, rather than buying single-use, this would make a significant impact. 

Spread the word when you see #PointlessPlastic
Greenpeace is calling on people to take and share photos of any excessive plastic packaging (such as clingfilmed coconuts and plastic-wrapped cauliflower “steaks”) using the hashtag #PointlessPlastic to shine a light on ridiculous packaging. The charity says supermarkets are producing 800,000 tonnes of plastic every year! 

Say no to plastic straws
This one’s pretty self explanatory - you just don’t need them!

Keep your beach clean 
It might sound pretty obvious to clean up after yourself but the amount of rubbish strewn across our beaches shows that lots of people are leaving litter behind. Take any rubbish with you after a day at the beach and, if you have time, you could even organise a beach cleanup event with your friends and family. 

Buy a “keep cup”
Not only are reusable coffee cups environmentally friendly and come in a range of awesome designs (classy William Morris Ecoffee Cup, anyone?) but many stores are now offering customers with reusable cups a discount on their coffee. Result.  

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