It’s cheap, versatile, durable – and deadly. Plastic has come to dominate our daily lives – used in everything from clothing to packaging to engineering – but we are only just beginning to understand how dangerous it can be. One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually by plastic in our oceans. To date 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced. Of this, 6.3 billion tonnes is now waste – a majority of which, some 79 per cent, is in landfill or the natural environment. And since plastic is very slow to break down, the problem is only going to get worse as more and more waste accumulates. In fact it is estimated that plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish by 2050.
Eliminating plastic from our lives completely is probably impossible, but it’s not difficult for most of us to make some changes and reduce the amount we use, especially disposable products. So this Lent, instead of chocolate, I’m giving up plastic.
I already try to reuse my shopping bags, but often when I’m out and about and rushing around, I find myself buying bottles of water. I’m not alone – 20,000 drinks bottles are sold around the world every second, most of which will not get recycled. So for 40 days, I’m going to make sure that I use a reusable bottle instead.
I’ve also written to local schools encouraging them to get involved and encourage their students to cut back on plastic. There are many ways to help make a difference. Even changes as simple as packing your own lunches in reusable containers, using foil or paper instead of clingfilm, swapping plastic-packaged food for tins or cardboard-packaged alternatives, and keeping old shopping bags, can have a big impact. Many cafes offer discounts if you bring your own flask or reusable cup, so there’s a financial incentive too.
The government has already banned microbeads and promised to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. But we can all do our bit to tackle plastic pollution. So why not join me and give up plastic for Lent.