More Plastic in the Sea Than Fish
All our concerns around plastic seem to have been narrowly focused on plastic waste in the ocean, but while rubbish in our seas is a very serious part of the problem, there is a lot more to it than that.
Plastic stays around for hundreds of years and it seems that, unfortunately, only about 9% of the plastic ever produced gets recycled; the majority ends up in landfills or in the environment. All that plastic is starting to show up in unexpected and unwelcome places, from our tap water to our food. Microplastics in our oceans seem to be smothering the small organisms that make up the base of the food chain, and could have serious implications for our food systems.
There is also far too much plastic in the system. Half of all plastic ever produced was made in the last 13 years. Plastic production globally continues to increase, with the plastic industry projecting 75% growth in the production of polyethylene (one of the most common types of plastic) by 2022. Much of that growth is in single-use plastic with no recycled content. At this rate there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
According to a recent Which? investigation, almost half of packaging used by major UK supermarket chains cannot be easily recycled.
Which? analysed the packaging of a typical household shop of 46 of the most popular items from Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. Apparently, the research broke down each item’s packaging into its component parts and assessed whether each piece could be easily recycled. The average percentage of packaging – including cardboard, glass and plastics – that could be easily put in household recycling bins was just 52%.
Equally concerning was that 42% of the total supermarket packaging was labelled either incorrectly or not at all, making it difficult for any of us to dispose of correctly and increasing the chances of it ending up in landfill.
Natalie Hitchins, Which? Head of Home Products and Services, said, “Our research shows there is a lot more supermarkets and manufacturers can do to banish single-use plastics and make sure any packaging they do use is minimal, recyclable and correctly labelled, so that shoppers know exactly how they can recycle it.
“To reduce the waste that goes to landfill, the government must make labelling mandatory, simple and clear as well as invest in better infrastructure to ensure that recycling is easy for everyone, regardless of where they live.”
How can we do our bit?
Give up plastic bags. Take your own reusable ones to the shop or supermarket.
Skip straws. Unless you have medical needs, and even then you could use paper ones.
Don’t bother with plastic bottles. Invest in a refillable water bottle.
Avoid plastic packaging. Buy a bar soap instead of liquid.
Recycle what you can.