GOB 101 Single Use Plastic
This article first appeared in Birdwatching Magazine March 2018
I hope you did not receive this magazine through the post in a plastic wrapper. I hope that the corner shop, local butcher and fishmonger don’t give you your goodies in a skinny plastic bag. I hope that you did not just sip your fast-food beverage through a plastic straw. But I fear that you will have done all these things. I can’t really blame you and confess to being among you as there really is little choice in the matter. As far as most manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers are concerned single-use plastic is cheap.
But is it? Throw-away plastic straws ride all seven seas to every corner of the world being disastrously ingested by cetaceans and fatally injuring fish and turtles not to mention albatrosses and other seabirds.
The average marine predator has a dozen plastic bags cluttering up its innards. Our seabirds fare no better with crops that are clogged, feet and beaks entwined and feathers matted with the detritus of modern life. There is rumoured to be a floating island of thrown away plastic the size of France in the pacific.
Barely a nest is made by seabirds that does not contain discarded plastic whether it be lost fishing lines and nets or your supermarket wrappers and bags.
A small amount sinks to the ocean floor intact and is buried in sand or begins to form micro-reefs that no longer harm. But, as our rivers and seas amass these plastic mountains, tides and currents begin to grind them small. You might be happy to know that the plastic bags can no longer strangle dolphins from the inside or suffocate and trap other marine organisms, but you would be wrong to rejoice. The micro-plastic enters the food chain in vast amounts to slowly poison us all. It is becoming so ubiquitous that even our own treated water sources contain plastic.
If we stopped throwing plastic away today there is still enough out there to go on injuring or poisoning wildlife for decades to come… and we are not even slowing the rate at which it is discarded.
So, what does all this cheap, throw-away plastic cost? It is costing the earth!
This is my 101’st GOB article… let’s assign Single Use Plastic to Room 101!
Can we change… of course we can with concerted effort and a government prepared to tax the profits of the offending companies. It’s no use adding tax at the point of sale, that just means it gets passed on to us all. The way forward is to take more from those who persist in promoting this false economy and reward those who make a stand for all our sakes. We cannot wait for voluntary agreements as commerce persistently shows that it can’t self-regulate?
Often environmental books I’ve been sent to review arrive in bags padded with plastic so that even the paper parts cannot be recycled. I send my books out in JiffyÒ bags that are padded with biodegradable flock and my P&P cost is no more for safe materials or recyclables than for harmful throwaways.
Optics arrive in polystyrene filled boxes! I recently received some LushÒ products and was dumfounded to find they came packed with seeming polystyrene. Knowing someone there I sent a stiff protesting email. I was delighted to be put right; it wasn’t plastic foam but just starch which (and I tested it) dissolves in water harmlessly. If one company can switch then they ALL can!
It’s all very well having your ‘bag for life’ but meaningless if you fill it with non-recyclable packaging. Every discarded plastic bag, throwaway plastic straw and polystyrene chip is a potential bird-killer!