In our world of instant gratification, plastic has proved incredibly useful, allowing food and drink to be conveniently packaged and transported for consumption on the go, immediately satisfying our most basic of human needs. Unfortunately, if it is not handled correctly after its brief use, plastic can cause serious environmental problems, as hauntingly documented by Blue Planet II. People are rightly concerned about the pollution accumulating in our seas, and they want an immediate solution.
After years of waiting, we finally have it: this morning, Theresa May launched her government’s 25 year plan for the environment. By far the most talked about aspect of the long awaited and wide ranging strategy is the prime minister’s promise to “demonstrate global leadership” by addressing needlessly produced plastic. This will be achieved, she vowed, through action “at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic”. Bold words indeed.
As we entered 2017, the UK was on edge, with the government’s plans for Brexit unclear, and the environmental dimensions of that even more so. While much remains at risk as the year draws to a close, prospects for our environment look brighter than they did 12 months ago.
The scale of plastic pollution plaguing our oceans is alarming. Eight million tonnes of the stuff is being lost to the sea each year. At least 136 species of marine life are affected by plastic entanglement, and many more still – at least 250 species – ingest plastic pieces that can be a million times more toxic than the water around them. We are one of those species, with European shellfish consumers ingesting around 11,000 bits of microplastic every year. Read more
This post is by Dr Colin Church, CEO of CIWM, the leading institution for resources and waste management, and the chair of the Circular Economy Task Force.
In the resource management sector, when a group of ‘strategic colleagues’ meets up, one of the conversations I’ve often heard around the table is a lament as to why politicians and the media are so focused on carrier bags, or plastic bottles, or coffee cups, or any other single product or waste stream in the news that day. They argue that this is deflecting attention from the holistic and more important bigger picture around resource productivity and the circular economy. Given that several of these specific issues featured in Michael Gove’s first keynote speech on the environment recently, I imagine this conversation is live once more. Read more
This blog was first posted on EurActiv.
Plastics have brought huge benefits to our society. But with those benefits come environmental problems. Too often, plastic ends up as waste, as marine litter polluting the oceans, or as litter on our beaches.
Lightweight, durable, and low cost plastics have transformed the products we make and consume, becoming ubiquitous through their convenience and adaptability.
This post is by Erik van Sebille, lecturer in oceanography and climate change at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute, Alyssa Gilbert, head of policy and translation at the Grantham Institute and Dustin Benton, head of energy and resources at Green Alliance.
Plastic is a great material. It’s lightweight, durable, cheap, and over the past 50 years it has become embedded in every part of modern life. Unfortunately, it’s now embedding itself in the earth’s largest ecosystem, the ocean. The visibility of plastic pollution has put it onto the agenda of campaigners, scientists and policy makers alike. But, unlike climate change, air pollution or deforestation, we don’t yet have a grasp of many of the basic questions about marine plastic pollution.