Disposable plastics are a huge contribution to the waste we produce. It has been estimated that over 300 million metric tonnes of plastic is produced over the world annually. A staggering 50% of this is though to be disposable and these are discarded within a year of purchase.
When disposable plastics are thrown away, they can either be sent to a landfill site, incinerated, recycled, or left to decompose. However, none of these is an ideal solution. Landfill sites require space and energy and the chemical components found in plastic diminish land resources. Incineration releases harmful pollution such as carbon dioxide, carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and dioxins, into the atmosphere and this has been known to have harmful effects on us as well as the planet. Recycling is always a good option but unfortunately, National Geographic states that a huge 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. Less than half of the plastic water bottles purchased in 2016 were recycled and just 7% were collected and repurposed into new bottles. If plastic is left to decompose, it will be left for a long time.
Most plastic ends up in the marine environment, as WWF state, ‘even if you live hundreds of miles from the coast, the plastic you throw away could make its way into the sea.’ We have all seen plastics littering the beach and have been made aware of the horrific stories of sea birds and creatures starving because their stomachs are filled up with the plastic we have thrown away. To quote David Attenborough, “there is no away – because plastic is so permanent and so indestructible. When you cast it into the ocean, it doesn’t go away.”
It has been estimated that a plastic bottle can last for around 450 years in the oceanic environment and around 12.7 trillion tonnes of plastic enters the sea each year. Plastic slowly fragments into smaller and smaller pieces which in time end up as microscopic. Plastic never truly goes away and neither does its effects. There have been microplastics found in nearly every corner of the world; in the fish we eat, in the water, even in the falling snow.
Plastic has fast become our go-to product. It is lightweight, cheap to make, and we have become accustomed to it. However, we need to think about the effect our dependence on plastic is having on the planet and our own health. Plastic bags take around 100 – 300 years to degrade and we use them for only a few minutes. Many plastic straws cannot be recycled because of the chemicals which they are made from. In recent years, there has been a dramatic awakening to their damaging effect on marine life and many restaurants and bars have now opted to serve paper straws instead (The Wellbeing Farm included). This is a brilliant step but there is still work to do.
The thing to remember is, there is always a non-plastic option. When going to the supermarket take your canvas bags (and listen to Tim Minchen’s song to remind you – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFgtIziShmc – it’ll get so stuck in your head you won’t be able to forget!). Buy a cup for life, a lot of places now offer a discount if you use your own cup so it’s a win for you and the planet! Buy a bamboo razor, it will work out cheaper in the long run than buying endless packs of disposable plastic ones. Use a metal straw – you can buy one form almost anywhere. It can even be as simple as opting for a can of something rather than a plastic bottle. You have the power to have a positive influence on the planet, so do it!