‘Our Plastic Planet?’ was hosted by Lizzie Daly, a wildlife biologist with a particular passion for the oceans. Her interactive presentation began with the cold truth: the entire ocean is now polluted with plastic. Every second 20,000 plastic bottles are being bought, and more than 80% of them are ending up either in landfills or in the oceans. Gyres such as the great Pacific garbage patch are a horrifying apocalyptic image for marine wildlife. Where we see the product of a quick everyday supermarket decision, animals see their greatest danger. Turtles, sharks, dolphins, plankton, and humpback whales were just a few examples of marine life endangered by plastic pollution. Working all over the world, Lizzie saw this extensively complicated problem first-hand.
Most of the audience were primary school pupils and it was encouraging to see how well educated they were on all of this already. It makes you look back and think how different the world became in just a couple of decades. I remember teachers telling my cohort from time to time about recycling/reusing, and people were practising it because it was ‘good’ and ‘polite’. As children (those of us who started primary school in the early 2000s), we rarely saw any of the images showing how much animals suffer because of pollution. We weren’t taught about the seven types of plastic and which ones can be recycled or reused, or that a plastic bottle can leach extremely harmful chemicals if exposed to even the slightest increase in temperature and we should never use it again, or that every toothbrush ever manufactured still exists.
At the ‘Our Plastic Planet?’ talk, we received all that information and towards the end, Lizzie stressed the importance of outreach work in schools, since education systems all over the world still don’t address the real global dangers that single-use plastic presents. So how do we solve this? Educating ourselves and encouraging others to do the same. Lizzie quoted the famous saying: ‘We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly’, and I couldn’t agree more.