Plastic and pollution – what can you do this summer?

Devastating footage of seabirds starving to death because their stomachs are so full of plastic there is no room for food has recently emerged on BBC One documentary Drowning in Plastic.

The birds live on Lord Howe Island, a tiny island off the east coast of Australia. Marine biologists are working hard to save the birds, taking chicks from their nests to physically flush the plastic from their system. They hope that it will give them a chance to survive.

Jennifer Lavers, one of the biologists working with the birds, says that most of the plastic they have found is “entirely preventable”.

The consumption of plastic has been in the news very frequently in the past few months, with many establishments banning the use of plastic straws.

An estimated 8.5 million plastic straws are used every single year in Britain alone – and plastic straws are in the top ten list of items to find on a British beach.

So how can you make a difference? Even if you’re jetting off to someone outside of Britain, the problem of plastic is a world-wide issue, so it’s important to be conscious wherever you go.

The main argument has been focussed around plastic straws, and indeed one of the best things you can do for the environment is using paper straws, eco-friendly straws, or even investing in some metal straws which can be bought for less than £5 on Amazon. Getting your own straws or asking for no straw in your drink if the establishment only has plastic ones is a brilliant way to help the problem of plastic.

It is not just straws – there are plenty of other ways you can help the environment this summer.

The number of plastic bags on UK beaches, incredibly, dropped by nearly half in just a year after the 5p bag charge came into law. You can help even further by purchasing a reusable shopper or a tote bag, and contributing even less to plastic pollution.

A reusable water bottle helps to prevent plastic bottles from appearing on beaches (it’s also cheaper than always buying a bottle everywhere you go!). Despite straws being more dangerous to animals, there are more plastic bottles on beaches than straws, but reusable bottles, especially eco-friendly ones, will not end up like this.

As an added bonus, in England, Wales, and Scotland, all licensed premises (those which serve alcohol, like pubs, restaurants, some cafes, takeaways, theatres, cinemas, and sometimes even village halls) are required by law to give you free tap water, so why not get a bottle of free water instead of purchasing one?

If you are taking your own water bottle, step it up and get a lunch box. Making your own food instead of buying it is cheaper anyway!

And even though it’s hot, plenty of us still value our coffee above all else. Instead of getting throw-away coffee cups every time you walk into a store, why not invest in your own reusable coffee container? You can use it both at home and out of it, and some stores (like Unio!) give discounts if you bring your own cup.

‘Plastic pollution’ seems like a scary phrase, but just changing a few things about your daily life makes an enormous difference to our world.

“I so look forward to a future where I’m not pulling clothes pegs out of the bellies of baby birds – that would be brilliant,” said Laver.

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January 2022
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