An amazing amount of media attention over the past six months has been focused on the tide of plastic waste littering and damaging our oceans, and for good reason, it’s about time this big problem got the publicity it deserves and the world woke up to the simple fact that if it doesn’t do something it’s eventually going to be too late to do anything.
The horror stories, rubbish strewn beach photo’s and clogged-up seas are everywhere, it took mere minutes of scrolling through Twitter before I came across this article, about poor Bob the Turtle, a sea creature so full of plastic he couldn’t even swim properly! And these articles are everywhere, making their way into not just the environmental sites and magazines, but getting headlines up there in the big names too. Another sad article, this one from The Telegraph, tells of a Sperm Whale dying of gastric shock after having ingested 29 kilos of plastic waste.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, on the flip-side it’s great to see big organisations beginning to come together and take responsibility, not just for themselves, but for cleaning up in general. Protecting our oceans from plastic pollution is the aim of a new initiative set up by Sky Ocean Ventures and National Geographic, and this article details their three pronged approach to their huge task. It’s also recently been announced in articles in an article that’s been published in several variations across multiple media, that the English Government is funding the new Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance £61.4 million to help clean up our oceans globally. Even the fashion giant H&M now has a Sustainability page on their website showcasing details of all their recycled and sustainable materials, and stating their conscious effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills.
With all this going on, do we really need to worry ourselves? The big guys are taking care of it right? The plastic waste, the landfill sites, the adverse effects on the environment, they’re all going to be sorted out by the big organisations…
You could almost be forgiven for falling into a false sense of security here. Everywhere you look there a new initiatives, even in my local town several pubs have recently banned the plastic straw in favour of either using the good old mouth machine, or an environmentally friendly alternative. A plastic free shop opened up this month, and the town is becoming a refill town in order to help it’s inhabitants cut down their dependence on plastic water bottles!
But even with so much fantastic activity it’s important to remember we’ve all got a role to play, and we all need to be taking responsibility, not just for own waste, but for our own usage. The newly adapted 5 R’s of Waste state Refuse as the first step in any attempt to tackle the amount of waste we produce. And that first step can only ever start with you, using the power the coins in your pocket give you in order to tell companies and organisations that you don’t want their products if they come wrapped in plastic, are unethically sourced, or otherwise harm you and/or the planet. Refuse, say no in the first place.
R number 2 is Reduce, of course. Reduce the things you do need. We’re so indoctrinated into a consumerist society that it’s easy to over-buy, to stock up, and to hold on to things that we no longer need. Cut these bad habits and think about what it is that you need, how much you need it, and how much of it you really need. Buy sparingly.
Our third R, Reuse, is gaining ever more popularity. And retailers are catching on, with a huge rise in the amount of bags for life, reusable water bottles, and long lasting containers on offer. Put simply, switch up disposable items for ones that can be reused again and again. It’s good on your wallet, good on your mental health, and super good on the environment!
R number four is one of my personal favourites, and one that has seen a huge surge in popularity over the past year. Repurpose. The internet is practically crawling with blogs, websites, articles, videos and a million how-to’s, all giving you the tools and inspiration you need to be able to turn pretty much anything at all, into something else entirely. Like turning old pallets into furniture, old tins into candle holds, or old t-shirts into funky bags, from intricate and time-consuming tutorials, to things you can make in under a minute, there’s no excuse not to be doing something funky with something you don’t want anymore.
And finally we come to R number 5, Recycle, or sometimes, Rot. This is your last stop on the journey, if you’ve ticked off all the R’s so far and you’ve still got some waste you don’t know what to do with, then now is the time to sort through it and make sure it that it’s put in the right place so it can be recycled. Or if it’s compostable, that it gets put somewhere it can Rot! Counties across England are now not just offering household recycling solutions, but encouraging them with new waste collection schedules and special bins for various items. It takes barely two seconds to note if your piece of rubbish is recyclable or not, and find the right place to put it.
It’s up to us as individuals to go against the tide of consumerism and change our behaviours, it’s up to us to make that difference, it’s up to us to save the planet. And that journey begins individually, at home, with each and every one of us.