We’re drowning in a sea of waste, especially plastic waste which carpets our environment on land and in water.
Walk down your street and note the amount of waste on the pavements, in the gutters and in people’s front gardens or parking areas: drinks containers (plastic, tin and glass), cigarette packets (cellophane wrapped), snack and sweet wrappings.
Local authority street cleaning services cannot cope by themselves with this litter mountain! We all have a part to play in binning and recycling litter even if we didn’t drop it.
Clear any rubbish from the space in front of your home and keep the pavement and gutter clean. If you have time, arm yourself with a litter-picker and clean a neighbourhood street or two, especially of recyclables. If you like company, there might be a local volunteer litter-picking team – your local councillor should be able to put you in touch – or why not start one yourself?
Plastic is the No.1 villain in this scenario. What can be done to reduce the use of plastic in modern life?
As a consumer, only buy food and drink in non-plastic containers (preferably bio-degradable material). You might want to ask your MP to persuade government to impose an environmental levy on the manufacture and use of plastic containers or bring in regulations to make use of recyclable plastic in the food and drink industry mandatory.
Some of you might not recognise the grimy vision painted above. But you do eat fish, don’t you?
Plastic pollution of the world’s oceans has reached extreme levels, both as surface-floating debris and more significantly as micro plastic confetti which can coat the ocean bed. Micro plastics act as sponges for oceanic toxins that affect the fish that ingest them, rendering these fish increasingly unfit for human consumption. We now have ‘Garbage Patches’ in most of the world’s oceans.
Human ingenuity is trying to ameliorate this catastrophic situation: the Ocean Cleanup project (www.theoceancleanup.com) is developing large-scale floating barriers which funnel surface debris into smaller areas for extraction; Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s (www.seashepherd.org) ‘Vortex Project’ harvests ocean plastic for eco-innovator ‘Bionic Yarn’ to turn into their unique clothing fibres.
On land, Japanese scientists have discovered enzymes found in the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis which can break down Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic into environmentally harmless constituents in a number of weeks.
Plastic pollution affects us all, so what are you going to do about your plastic use? Don’t drown in a sea of waste!
Peter Reynolds is Greeniversity Peterborough’s volunteer administrator.