Plastic pollution

043: Tell someone about plastic pollution

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ NIL

For action to protect our planet to succeed, we need everyone to understand the problems and how they can play a part in the solutions to them. It’s no good complaining that people are not doing their bit, if they don’t know why it is important to do so.

So this action is simply to tell someone about one of the biggest problems we face – the growing mountain of plastic waste and plastic pollution.

Who should I tell?

It could be anyone, but here are a few ideas:

  • if you have children, tell them. Build environmental awareness into their education and play. If you are shopping, tell them why you want to avoid certain brands or products. Encourage recycling and tell them why there are separate bins for different materials. Education is a key part of making sure our collective destructive behaviours are moderated or changed.
  • if you know about the damage, but your parents or grandparents don’t, then tell them. Older people have lived through an age where plastic was hailed (and in many respects was) a wonderful invention that protected us from disease, food waste, the unnecessary use of trees and more, so their mindset might need addressing.
  • tell work colleagues and encourage a reduce-reuse-recycle culture in your business or workplace
  • tell friends in the pub, during chats over meals, or when out and about
  • remind people of the problem on social media or on websites you control, and include a few relevant links (including us maybe!)
  • perhaps make a resolution to tell at least one person a month, or one person a week

What should I tell them?

You might not have a chance to tell them everything, but here are a few facts you can use:

  • plastic is made from oil (fossil fuel), encouraging a massively polluting industry
  • plastics are made, deliberately, to be long lasting, so they do not break down once discarded
  • single use plastics are a massive, unnecessary, and expensive waste of these resources
  • Plastic pollutionall plastics end up in one of these places:
    • landfill, where it remains, leaching poisons, for decades or centuries
    • incinerators, which are polluting (especially older plants)
    • the land environment (litter) where it pollutes, kills wildlife that ingest it, and reduces our own quality of life
    • the marine environment, again where it pollutes and kills, but also enters our own food chain via fish
    • recycling, which although helpful is still energy demanding, and not generally very efficient
  • Mitigating this means
    • reducing what plastic we use, especially single-use plastic items and packaging
    • reusing plastic items as often as we can
    • recycling, where plastic use is unavoidable
  • According to
    • seabirds are almost certain now to ingest plastic
    • seabird nests are increasingly made using plastic
    • all turtle species are known to ingest plastic
    • 47 whale species are known to ingest plastic
    • 350 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year, half of which is only ever used once
    • plastic does not biodegrade, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces (toxic microplastics)
    • microplastics are found in sealife, including in the fish we eat
    • chemicals from plastics cause cancer, birth defects and developmental problems in children

Your action

It is important that we all do our bit to limit the damage done by plastics, but people can only be expected to act if they understand how important it is to do so. By educating someone, you will be contributing to this and helping us all, collectively, change our ways.

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