Single Use Plastics – How to start saying “No”

Interesting to see in the news this week that Northern Ireland Councils have made a start in banning Single Use Plastics in favour of more environmentally-friendly options.

Single Use Plastics, or SUPs as they are known as, are a major source of marine litter and consist of items such as bags, bottles, straws, cutlery, stirrers and much more. They all present a physical danger for marine life – more than a million birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die each year from eating or being tangled in plastic waste.

I, like many more people, was extremely upset to see the recent video of a Turtle with a plastic fork lodge in it’s nostril and conservation volunteers having to extract this from the clearly distressed creature. A very sad sight indeed.

The BBC series Blue Planet II has also highlighted the scale of plastic debris in the oceans and let’s hope it has also raised sufficient awareness across a global society about the impact of single use plastic waste and pollution on our oceans and ecosystems. I would certainly recommend everyone watches all BP II episodes or at least one to realise the scale and enormity of the challenges that lie ahead.

In terms of our adjustment as a society it really is so easy to make a start in saying ‘no’ to plastic straws, cups, lids, stirrers and cutlery which are washed up and found on so many of our beaches in the UK. As a litter picker and newly recruited Beachwatch Organiser here in the North East for the Marine Conservation Society I see single use plastics first hand washed up on the beach when litter picking at our local beaches.

Retailers and packaging manufacturers, especially the larger companies, under their Packaging Waste obligations should be looking at ways to provide us as consumers with a better choice. This will inevitably have to form part of a diversification strategy in their production and supply chain.

Having already made my personal choices to start to eliminate single use plastics from my lifestyle it really has been quite easy – my choices as alternatives so far have been:

  • Use either paper straws/reusable metal straws or better still none at all
  • Use a re-usable Bamboo cup such as an Ecoffee cup – these can be purchased widely across the UK and even locally right here in the North East. And most well known takeaway coffee establishments now deduct money from the cost of your cuppa if you take your own mug – an incentive in itself!
  • Use the straw as a stirrer! – could never understand the point of a plastic stirrer
  • Use bamboo cutlery for your takeaway or carry a handy metal mini cutlery set (available in most camping stores) – I’m not a big fan of plastic cutlery and have been refusing this for quite a while now.
  • Take reusable bags shopping and buy fruit and veg loose instead of packaged

As you can see from the above there really are so many choices to us as a society today and even before the UK discussions around taxing single use plastics are introduced/implemented – if we start now we can certainly be ready for the changes ahead.

In summary though, if we are to help our marine wildlife and avoid adding to the very serious problem of global ocean pollution, there really is no excuse for us as a society to continue to use SUP’s. Like everything in life it’s a case of adapting to another very simple lifestyle change.

Why not join us in the Single Use Plastic Free Challenge?

If you would like to find out more about our workshops in “How to Start Saying No to Plastic” or tips on where to buy “plastic free” products please do contact us.