The problem of ocean plastic pollution is hot topic, highlighted by the BBC’s Blue Planet 2 program.
It can be difficult to make the connection between recycling at home and ocean plastic, but human impact on the environment is essentially down to taking personal responsibility for our consumer habits. It is estimated that there is about 165 million tonnes of plastic pollution in the ocean and that by 2050; the ocean could potentially contain more plastic than fish (Ellen McArthur Foundation).
How does plastic end up in the ocean?
Much of the plastic that we consume is designed to be used once and thrown away, however if plastic is not disposed of responsibly, it can easily enter watercourses. Plastic in landfills (and in our neighbourhoods) can become displaced as litter and litter can follow its way to the sea via storm drains and on the breeze.
Plastic is a substance that is unique in that it does not break down as much as break apart. Therefore, the accumulation of plastics in the ocean is ever growing which poses great issue for marine wildlife.
Nevertheless, a problem of this scale can feel overwhelming for individuals to make a positive impact. So what can we do? A few small changes made on an entire population scale can have an incredible effect.
Cut out single use plastics from your shopping. From carrier bags to drinking straws, some of these single use products are the most common plastics polluting our oceans. Did you know that the 5p carrier bag charge in Wales brought about a 71% reduction in single usage bags between 2011 and 2014.
Where you do use plastics, opt for re-usable. Did you know that it takes up to three litres of water to make a bottle that holds one litre? Make sure that plastic bottle is not thrown away after one use.
Recycling plastics cause much confusion, as some plastics can be recycled and some cannot. In Cardiff you can recycling semi-rigid or “squeezey” plastics in your household green bag collection. This includes bottles for food, drink, cosmetics and cleaning products but also pots, tubs, trays and punnets. Lightweight plastics such as carrier bags should not be put in the green bag but are accepted for recycling at some large supermarkets. Rigid or hard plastics should stay out of the green bag also but can be recycled at one of the Household Recycling Centres.