We’ve known for a long time that our plastic consumption isn’t good for the environment. Most plastics don’t break down naturally and can wreak havoc on natural ecosystems. It’s only recently, however, that we’ve seen significant movements to curb plastic consumption. Why now?
The causes of the current cultural phenomenon are complex. It’s a mixture of political positioning and genuine concern about the damage that plastics do the environment.
We've blogged before on how many vegans see caring for the environment as important, along side their concern for animal freedoms.
The main driver of concern isn’t plastics taking up space in landfill - although this is a problem - but the sheer quantity of the stuff ending up in the sea.
These plastic pollution facts make some pretty horrible reading:
- More than 60 to 90 per cent of all human-made debris in the ocean is plastic
- Scientists estimate that 5.25 trillion microplastic pieces are floating around in the sea
- Plastic pollution is present on every beach in the world - including isolated tropical islands thousands of miles from human civilization
- The world adds more than 8 million new pieces of plastic to the ocean every day
- Plastics are now in the bodies of the vast majority of large marine creatures, including turtles, whales and seals
- Plastic pollution leads to the death of more than 100,000 marine mammal and turtles every year
- Plastic kills more than 1 million seabirds every year
What Will Happen If We Don’t Take Control Of Our Plastic Pollution In The Next 20 To 30 Years?
The current plastic pollution problem is catastrophic for the natural world, but it could get much, much worse. Researchers estimate that over the next ten years, the world will produce more plastic than it did in the entirety of the 20th century. Billions of new consumers in China and India want plastic-based products, such as cosmetics, to improve their standard of living. Just like people in the West, they don’t want to live in material poverty.
Plastic finds its way to every corner of the environment and causes damage on a terrible scale to wildlife.
Increasing the levels of plastic in our environment two or three times will lead to the death of more marine animals and cause untold devastation of natural ecosystems. The world’s oceans need a variety of creatures in them to maintain a balance of life. Plastic is disrupting that balance, leading to overgrowth of some species and extinction of others.
Plastic is also extremely harmful to human health. The majority of the animals that we eat now contain plastic because it is embedded in the food chain. Some plastics, especially BPAs, are harmful to human health and cannot be processed out of the body. Once you’re exposed, there’s no going back.
Phthalates in plastic are another issue, linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, and deficiencies of certain nutrients. If you want to live a long and healthy life, you want to live in a world without phthalates.
How You Can Help Make The World Plastic-Free
Reading all this might make you feel helpless, but there are lots of things that you can do to make the world plastic-free.
Stop Buying Plastic-Packaged Food
There’s no need to buy food in plastic containers: you can buy everything you need as it comes out of the ground, including plant-based protein like beans. If you need a bag, use a paper or reusable alternative. Sadly most supermarkets and other large shops don't see things like this, and use plastic is careless and unnecessary ways. Plastic free living does mean having to change both the way and the places you shop.
Reuse Your Coffee Cup
Most commercial coffee cups use plastic to line the interior and prevent leakage. Coffee cups might look like they’re made of cardboard - and they are - but they also come with a hefty dose of plastic too. It’s much better to take your own mug to your local coffee house if you need a coffee to go. Some more forward thinking coffee shops offer bring back schemes for thermal mugs.
Stop Using Plastic Shopping Bags
Plastic shopping bags were once ubiquitous, but now in countries which force retailers to charge for bags, they are less popular. One of the best ways to cut down on your plastic usage is to stop using disposable plastic bags and replace them with totes made from cotton or paper.
Educate The People Around You
A lot of people still aren’t aware of the devastating impact that plastic consumption has on the environment. As somebody with the knowledge, you’re in a position to educate people about what’s really going on. Don’t play the blame game: just talk about the facts and get people on board with your desire to live in a plastic-free world. You’ll be surprised how much a difference a simple conversation can make.