The plastic epidemic that has spent decades polluting our planet was brought to our attention again on Sunday evening when the globally renowned broadcaster and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, took to our screens with another outstanding episode of Blue Planet 2. Here Attenborough held nothing back in making the population aware of the problems we are causing. With this being a hugely relevant conversation throughout the week, we thought we’d touch on the subject too.
The facts behind plastic pollution are mounting up heavily and it almost seems as though the majority of the population simply doesn’t care. I know that it seems hard to believe, but compared to 2006 where we produced 300 billion plastic bottles, last year we produced 480 billion. The plastic pollution is no secret and we all know about it, so why are we still buying plastic packaged products?
We are buying one million plastic bottles a minute across the globe
Perhaps some people think that it doesn’t effect them, that whatever happens out of sight, is simply out of mind. However, Europe alone ingested 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic last year from eating seafood. If you’re still thinking that if you don’t notice, you don’t care… then think again. The plastics washing up on our beaches, being ingested by the sea life, and then in turn.. us, is toxic. Many plastics used in food and drink packaging contains a toxic chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), studies have shown that this chemical can seep into the food packaged within. This is a concern because of the research linking this chemical to health problems such as coronary artery heart disease, angina, heart attack, hypertension, and peripheral artery disease.
Toxic chemicals like BPA are used in making plastic food and drink packaging
If you followed this last season of Blue Planet 2, you may remember the heartbreaking scene where a mother pilot whale was dragging her dead calf around for days. This emotional demonstration of grief was likely caused by plastic ingestion. The toxins found in plastics could be poisoning marine animals to the point that a mothers milk can have deathly consequences for their calves.
Once these toxins are absorbed by marine life, they are then also finding their way onto our plates and into our tuna sandwiches. If you consider the lives of small fish and plankton, eating small fragments of plastic while rummaging for dinner, then they’re eaten by larger fish and so on. This is how the toxic plastic problems are further poisoning our animals and us.
I understand that the global warming issue is one that is much harder to tackle, like Attenborough says, ‘What we’re going to do about 1.5 degrees rise in the temperature of the ocean over the next 10 years, I don’t know, but we could actually do something about plastic right now’. And these aren’t hugely difficult changes to make. We have previous posts about living a zero-waste lifestyle if you’re curious, however, small changes in your daily life can make the world of difference. Simply reusing plastic bags or keeping canvas bags in your car for when you do your grocery shopping, buying a BPA free and reusable water bottle… and actually taking it with you, stop buying soft drinks in plastic bottles, instead try buying recyclable glass bottles.
We need to stop buying plastic products so that it stops being produced.
Surely we all feel the same on at least some of these points? Seeing an albatross feeding their chick a plastic bag, and knowing that it will likely cause the chick to die is a horrible image that I hope to never see again. The thought that marine mammals milk can become toxic from plastic ingestion makes me worry about how long it will be before human mothers start experiencing similar problems - will it take that becoming an issue before we outlaw plastic entirely? Hopefully not. So why don’t we all band together and make a collective decision to stop using and stop buying plastic packaged products today. We have the power to make a difference.