Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental issues facing the planet. Everyone is talking about it, especially since Blue Planet 2 helped to give the issue huge public attention in 2016.
The impact of our waste on the natural environment and the wildlife it supports is huge – and we’re only seeing the tip of the problem.
Scotland produces 15,000 tonnes of litter a year and a large amount of this is plastic waste. It’s down to all of us, from young to old, to remember our three R’s: Reduce, reuse, and recycle; with a very definite emphasis on the first when it comes to plastic.
As a material, plastic is strong, flexible and long lasting. These properties are what have made it so useful and are the reasons why we have become so reliant on plastic products. Unfortunately, these very same properties make it a particular problem. Pretty much every piece of plastic ever made (unless it’s been burned) still exists.
Production of plastic at its current scale, combined with globally inadequate recycling and waste management facilities, have led to plastic building up in our environment. There are huge areas of the oceans where plastic has gathered due to the currents, the largest of which is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Marine wildlife in particular is badly affected by plastic, Globally, 100,000 marine mammals and turtles are killed each year alongside 1,000,000 seabirds. Plastic affects life on land too, with everything from hedgehogs to nesting birds getting into difficulties because of our discarded waste.
I could write (and many people have written) a lot more about plastic and the effects it has. Instead, we will skip that, and in the nature of the season we shall be positive and outline some ways that you can help solve the plastic problem this Christmas. Each small change can help to reduce your impact.
Ditch single-use plastics
Before you make a purchase, decide if it’s going to be worth it – and I mean that from an environmental point of view rather than an economic one!
How many times are you going to use the plastic reindeer headband? Are the battery-powered dancing snowmen still going to be amusing in their fourth year? If the answer is no, don’t buy it. If, however, that plastic Christmas tree is going to look perfect in your family home for the next 20 years, it might just be the most sustainable choice.
It’s all about balance and weighing up the cost. Items that are financially cheap can have a big environmental cost.
Make your own
Christmas is a time for many things, including indulgence and celebration. Making your own festive items can be a fun and helpful way to cut down on plastic without missing out. You could reduce plastic packaging by making your own mince pies, biscuits and savoury treats. Have a go at making your own Christmas decorations out of natural materials, or even get handy with a needle and thread.
Avoid unsustainable Christmas crackers and the pesky plastic toys often found inside by making your own, or buying an eco-friendly alternative. Get crafty by making and sending your own Christmas cards. And definitely give glitter, which is made up of tiny pieces of plastic, a wide berth.
Wrap it up
Wrapping paper is one of the worst offending items of a plastic filled Christmas. Even the paper that looks like it can go in the recycle bin often has plastic in the design, is coated in plastic, or is smothered in sticky tape. It’s been estimated that five million tonnes of wrapping paper goes straight to landfill in the UK every year.
Hiding presents is essential for the element of surprise, so swap the wrapping paper for a re-usable cloth bag, or have your very own brown paper packages tied up with string! If you’ve been given presents in wrapping paper you can use the scrunch test: if the paper stays scrunched, you can recycle it – if it bounces back into shape, it will have to go in the bin.
People and Wildlife Officer
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Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental issues facing the planet. Everyone is talking about it, especially since Blue Planet 2 helped to give the issue huge public attention …