As windsurfers, the ocean is our playground. Plastic poses a huge threat to the environment of the oceans and causes untold damage to their delicate ecosystems.
Some of you might have met NWF ‘Live Lounge’ cameraman Simon Vacher. Simon is Director of Photography on the current BBC Series ‘Britain’s Treasure Islands’, which visited some of the most remote and pristine uninhabited islands in the Pacific – and found plastic refuse on the beaches!
Plastic turns up literally everywhere in our oceans. There is plastic in the deep sea and buried in Arctic ice. Plastic is ingested by or entraps hundreds of species of marine wildlife, with fatal consequences. The stomachs of the 13 sperm whales which stranded recently in the North Sea were full of car parts and plastic. While the marine litter did not directly cause the stranding, it is a shocking insight as to where all that plastic, which we so readily use and discard, ends up.
While you see drinks bottles a-plenty washing up on our beaches, plastic in the ocean is not always visible. Some of it starts life as tiny microbeads, flushed after a single use, while larger pieces are broken down over time into tiny particles called ‘microplastics’. These end up on beaches or are ingested by marine life – and then enter the food chain. Our food chain!
It is estimated that eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year and that tonnage is set to increase 10 fold in the next decade – unless we do something about it. Worse news is that plastic sticks around. Experts suggest that most plastics will be in the environment in some form for many thousands of years, so it is not a problem that will cure itself – and not the kind of legacy that I would like to leave!
I’m not going to mention taking your litter home; that goes without saying. Nor am I going to suggest giving up plastic – it is part of life. But a few small actions from each of us will have an immediately beneficial effect and reduce our polluted legacy to future generations.
- Say ‘No’ to Single Use Plastic – it is obvious that if we use less plastic, there will be less to end up in the ocean in the first place! One easy step that we can all take, with little impact on our lives, is to give up single-use plastic items where possible and replace them with a re-usable version. That means re-usable drinks bottles, carrier bags, cups etc and saying ‘NO’ to things like plastic cutlery, drinking straws and over-packaged items. Every single piece you forgo is one that can’t end up polluting the environment. And where the consumer goes, so goes the supplier…!
- Do a Beach Clean – either your own or join an organised one. The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) runs organised beach cleans. Or why not pledge to pick up just one piece or one bag of litter every time you are on the beach? You might think that it won’t be of any consequence, but it is estimated that if everyone in England recycled just one aluminium can per week, 45,595 tonnes would stay out of landfill. And what if you save the life of one marine creature? You WILL have made a difference to that one!
- Go Microbead Free – Tiny plastic particles are used in many toiletries and cleaning products and are too small to be filtered out. Once these microbeads flush down the plughole, guess where they end up…and they don’t biodegrade! The Marine Conservation Society ‘Scrub it Out’ campaign is encouraging businesses to stop using microbeads in their products and asking the public to pledge to switch to microbead-free products. You don’t have to stop washing! A guide on the MCS website will direct you to microbead-free alternatives. Trust me, you won’t notice the difference.
- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – it the mantra of the environment! But are we all doing as much as we can? Like it or not, plastic is part of our lives, but we can be responsible by purchasing recycled plastic if possible – and making sure that it is recycled once it is finished with. This might not be a case of popping it in the recycle bin – can it be re-purposed or donated to charity? Online auction sites are a great way of making a bit of money from unwanted items or sites such as Freecycle can match all sorts of incongruous items with a grateful recipient.
- Old Windsurfers Never Die – they live on in landfill. We cannot ignore the fact that old windsurfing kit is a bit of an environmental catastrophe and is something that we should deal with responsibly. There are many things that we can do with our old kit – so many that I will look at these in a separate blog to follow. Watch this space!
So to finish, let’s hear from the Cellophane King in his fabulous song ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’; one of the few Plastic Bertrand lyrics that we DO understand is ‘don’t touch my planet’. We couldn’t agree more!
The Plastic Pledge – Take Instant Action!
- Sign this Petition – calling for the UK government to implement an incentive based deposit return scheme to encourage the recycling of plastic and metal drinks bottles and cans. It is suggested that a well-planned scheme in supermarkets will create employment while tackling the increase in coastal littering, which is up 40% since 2014. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/125568
- Beach Clean – Join a Marine Conservation Society organised beach clean mcsuk.org/beachwatch or organise one, see http://www.sas.org.uk/news/beach-cleans/minibeachclean/
- Microbeads – An Early Day Motion (EDM) proposing a ban on microbeads has been tabled in parliament and needs as many MPs as possible to show their support by signing it. You can email your MP and ask them to say ‘NO’ to ocean-polluting microbeads via this linkhttps://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/microbeads-5
- The 3 R’s
- Recycle – The Recycle Now website recyclenow.com is a great resource to find out where and how to recycle a wide variety of items.
- Buy Recycled – Here are a few of the many online stores which specialise in recycled, environmentally friendly and natural products.
- Old Windsurfing Kit – Watch the NWF Website and Facebook Page for my forthcoming blog on how to recycle old windsurfing equipment.
- Campaign – Surfers Against Sewage run a number of campaigns against marine litter. http://www.sas.org.uk/campaigns/marine-litter/
- Spread the Word – Please share this blog and encourage your friends, family and businesses to take the Plastic Pledge too!