Category Archives: S.T.O.P.

Save The Oceans from Plastics one of our most important projects to incorporate our 4 point plan to change our habits over plastics.

‘Nudge’ Economics for Plastic Waste

It seems that you can’t turn on the radio or TV these days without a story concerning the evils of plastic waste and the damage it is doing to our oceans.  The recent BBC series Blue Planet 2 showed many visual, hard-hitting examples which shocked viewers and has galvanised  the media into getting behind various initiatives – Refuse the Straw, The Latte Levy for example.  But for these initiatives to truly succeed there has to be a change to social conforming behaviours. The introduction of a charge for carrier bags in UK supermarkets is an excellent example of this.

Broadly speaking, there are three types of social conforming behaviours (“norms”) which when aligned and triggered can change behaviours permanently.

First we have descriptive norms – we do these things because others do it.  Closely linked are injuctive norms – we take these actions because we believe they are publicly approved as “the right thing to do”. Finally there are personal norms which are as a result of our upbringing, education or experiences. If policymakers can align these three norms and find trigger then we change people’s habits.

plastic shopping bags

Looking at the plastic bag charge that has been so successful in the UK, research shows that most people’s personal norms consider waste to be bad.  So they will save bags if the two public approval norms can be triggered.  The publicity campaign introducing the charge stressed the harm that plastic bags can do to animals as well as the visual impact of litter.  This primed people to appreciate that avoiding plastic bag use was the “right thing to do” as well as being publicly approved.

There only remained one aspect to establish – to subtly persuade individuals that most people bring their own bags to stores.  Making this standard practice socially reinforces individual actions and becomes habit-forming which is then likely to be sustained.  The introduction of the 5p charge also triggers a loss-aversion process, which subliminally reinforces that buying plastic bags is neither normal nor “the right thing to do”.

Another aspect to the loss-aversion process is the UK proposal to follow other European countries and introduce a refundable deposit scheme for plastic bottles.  Recycling rates of up to 95% have been achieve elsewhere.

 

 

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Thinking Outside the “Plastic” Box

single use pollution

Single-use plastic packaging is clogging up the oceans and overwhelming landfill sites.  Alternatives that are both sustainable and recyclable are under development but the need a boost to become economically viable and more mainstream.

Global plastic production had mushroomed from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes only 4 years ago.  It is expected that this figure will double in the next few decades and by 2050, according to the World Economic Forum, there could potentially be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Unfortunately, despite the moves to encourage recycling of plastic waste, a substantial amount of plastic packaing is uneconomical to recover, reuse or recycle.  So we need to be lookng for materials with a large range of properties that make them viable alternatives to unrecyclable plastic.

Here are 5 sustanable and affordable packaging alternatives:-

Edible films and wraps.  These starch-based products have been around for a while, but at the US Department of Agriculture, they are now developing a film made of milk protein.  In South Korea they have been looking at animal protein.

edible fims

 

Algae-based packaging.  If you boil up seaweed you get a gelatinous substance called agar.  This can be used to create textures that can replicate bubble wrap and foam packaing.  This is currently being pioneered by researchers in Japan, Lithuania and Spain.

algae based packaging

Mushroom-based containers.  Grown from agricultural by-products, this so called myco-foam is produced from mycelium a fungal network of threadlike cells, which are like the roots of mushrooms.  Ecovative in the United States is at the forefront of this technology.  Swedish retain giants, Ikea are looking at using this type of packaing to replace polystyrene, which is tricky to recycle.  Whilst polystyrene takes thousands of years to decompose, mycelium can simply be thrown into the ground where it will biodegrade in a matter of weeks.

mushroom based packaging

Cellulose, fibre and resin.  Bananas,coconut, softwood forestry by-products, as well as grasses and cereal stalks all have the potential to become bioplastics.  Some materials can be heated, melted and injected into moulds which is crucial if they are to compete with petroleum-based plastics.

cellulose packaging

Plant-based polymers.  Biopolymers can be made from corn or potato starch, even sugarcane.  Long molecular chains such as polylactic acid can be deried from annually renewable resources.  A number of companies from New Zealand to Thailand produce this.

polymers

Currently 95% of plastic packaging has only a short one-use life cycle.  It is used and then thrown away and results in a loss to the global economy of more than $80 billion a year – according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

One of the biggest challenges is getting manufacturers to move away from the old, familiar products.  New packaging is not necessarily more expensive to produce, in the long term, but as with any new product, the initial costs are in the start up when economies of scale have not yet kicked in.

This is where YOU come into the equation.  As a customer of any store or company using plastic packaging you hold a very important piece of the puzzle – you buy their products and if the customer is always right then if enough customers DEMAND that alternatives to plastic packaging is found then the companies WILL supply it.  It only takes one major brand to announce a policy change and others will follow.

Make your voice heard NOW!

 

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Turning the Tide on Plastic

A UK supermarket will be the first in the world to remove plastic packaging from all of its own-label products.

Iceland’s landmark move puts pressure on its rivals to follow suit amid public demands to turn back the tide of plastic pollution.
The company, which has more than 900 stores, has a five-year plan to ditch plastic from all of its own-brand products.

Packaging on 1,400 product lines will be replaced, and the changes involve more than 250 suppliers. First to go will be plastic ready meal trays in favour of wood-pulp alternatives made in Britain. Plastic bags used for frozen vegetables and other food will then be dropped in favour of paper alternatives.

Iceland, which has already removed plastic disposable straws from its own range, is also working on alternatives for plastic bottles and milk cartons.

Last week, UK Prime Minister, Theresa May set a 25-year deadline to banish ‘avoidable’ plastic and called on supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles.  However, the reaction to this from many campaigners (including Green Waste Enterprises) was that a target of reducing plastic waste by 2042 without the full weight of legislation behind it was “far too long” and  appeared to many as “weak and woolly”.

Iceland’s move suggests it is possible to go further and faster.  Iceland managing director Richard Walker said: ‘The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics.  So what are some of the other leading supermarkets up to in the fight against plastic?

TESCO

By 2025, Tesco wants all its packaging to be recyclable or compostable and its total packaging weight to be halved compared to 2007.

It has removed all polystyrene from its fish packaging, and claims that more than 78% of its packaging is recyclable, though this depends on the type of material accepted by local authorities.

Replacing two layer plastic trays with single layer plastic has also helped them to remove 92 tonnes of plastic.

ASDA

Asda has reduced the weight of its packaging by 27% since 2007, partly by introducing “skin” packaging on some of its meat products.

It also saved 82 tonnes of plastic by making its two-litre own-brand water bottles lighter.  All Asda stores have had carrier bag recycling bins for customers since 2008.  Plastic from these bins is combined with the plastic from the back of Asda stores and comes back as their Bags for Life.  Customers can also use these bins to recycle clean plastic film from their homes.

MORRISONS

Morrisons also recycles its carrier bags and uses “returnable bins” for fish products to reduce the use of poly boxes. The company says it keeps 95% of its store waste out of direct landfill.

It has also banned microbeads and plastic cotton buds in its own-brand cosmetic products, and plans to phase out drinking straws in its cafes.

In September, it trialled removing single-use carrier bags entirely in six of its stores.

WAITROSE

Waitrose has thinned its prepared salad bags and reduced smoked salmon packaging by 50%.

It charges 30p or 40p for its food to be delivered or collected in plastic bags. Despite plastic bag charging, Waitrose says it supplied 63 million bags in England from April 2016 to April 2017 but donated £2.6m to good causes.

By switching to biodegradable cotton buds, Waitrose estimates it has saved 21 tonnes of plastic.

Last July, the supermarket introduced a new sandwich wrapper, the plastic and cardboard of which can be more easily separated for recycling than other packaging.

It also trialled a non-plastic punnet made from tomato leaf and cardboard pulp in October, and does not sell any products containing microbeads.

It plans to make its own-label packaging widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2025.

WHAT MORE CAN WE DO?

Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, has said that while initiatives like these were good, “more radical and comprehensive policies” were needed to tackle the plastic waste crisis.

“We need to see supermarkets making firm commitments to move away from using disposable plastic packaging altogether, starting with going plastic free in their own brands.”

Businesses should be using “reusable containers wherever possible”, she said, and investment in research and development was “vital” to finding less problematic packaging materials.

Supermarkets also needed to avoid solving one problem by causing another, such as reducing the weight of packaging by replacing glass with plastic, she said.

But the most important step for retailers was to make an open commitment to reducing the use of resources and carbon emissions. “None of these processes will be reliable without significantly increased transparency,” she added.

Greenpeace UK suggests retailers should:

  • Eliminate all non-recyclable plastics from own brand products
  • Remove single-use plastic packaging for own brand products
  • Trial dispensers and refillable containers for own brand items like shampoos, house cleaning products, beverages
  • Push national brand suppliers to eliminate non-recyclable plastics and to stop using single use plastic packaging
  • Install free water fountains in-store and water re-fill stations
  • Support deposit return schemes in-store
  • Trial reusable packaging and product refills via home deliveries

A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was committed to stemming the damage caused by plastic waste and had made great progress in boosting recycling rates.

“We are encouraged by industry action to reduce plastic and packaging waste and look forward to seeing others following its lead,” it said.

Well done to Iceland taking the lead on this initiative.  We hope that the other supermarkets will follow their lead and that government will follow with meaningful legislation. The supermarkets can only initially demand that their own brand products are plastic-free.  It is up to YOU as the buying customer to show your preference for this so that the multi-national brands follow suit.

With thanks to BBC  News and infographic by Joy Roxas.

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It’s a Planetary Crisis – UN!!

ocean plastics getty
Getty images

Nations have agreed that the world needs to completely stop plastic waste from entering the oceans.  The third meeting of the UN Environment Assembly takes place 4th-7th December in Nairobi, Kenya with the overarching theme of pollution.

The UN resolution, which is set to be sealed at the Assembly, has no timetable and is not legally binding.  But ministers at the believe it will set the course for much tougher policies and send a clear signal to business.

A stronger motion was rejected after the US would not agree to any specific, internationally agreed goals.  Under the proposal, governments would establish an international taskforce to advise on combating what the UN’s oceans chief has described as a planetary crisis.

Environmentalists say ministers are starting to take plastic waste more seriously, but need to move much more quickly.  Li Lin from the green group WWF said: “At last we are seeing some action on this issue, but we still don’t have the urgency we need. The problem needs solving right now.”

top 10 plastic countries

One contentious issue is the wish of delegates to include businesses on the global taskforce.  Ministers say the problem will not be solved without business, but green groups point out that some firms in the plastics industry have been lobbying against restrictions for decades.

This links directly to Green Waste Enterprises’ Four Point Plan to fight this massive problem.

      1. Educate people of all ages of the importance of recycling
      2. Legislate to improve reclcying laws in the USA and UK
      3. Take the plastic industry to task
      4. Find a replacement for plastic that is biodegradable.

Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s environment minister, a leading voice in the talks, told BBC News: “Business is listening to markets and seeing how marine litter is a growing popular concern.  It’s possibly the fastest-growing environmental problem and it’s therefore a fast-growing problem for business.  We need to bring on board those companies that want to change things, then look at taxes and regulations to make more companies sustainably.  We also need to mobilise business like aquaculture that suffer from marine pollution.”

Lisa Svensson, the UN Oceans Chief added “This is a planetary crisis – in a few short decades since we discovered the convenience of plastics, we are ruining the econsystem of the ocean”.  “Life in the seas risks irreparable damage from a rising tide of plastic waste – governments, firms and individual people must act far more quickly to halt plastic pollution.  She had spoken to BBC News ahead of the UN environment summit in Nairobi.  Delegates at the meeting want tougher action against plastic litter.

Ms Svensson had just been saddened by a Kenyan turtle hospital which treats animals that have ingested waste plastic.  She saw a juvenile turtle named Kai, brought in in an emaciated state by fishermen a month ago because she was floating on the sea surface.  Plastic waste was immediately suspected, because if turtles have eaten too much plastic it bloats their bellies and they can’t control their buoyancy.

 

  1. The planetary crisis affects many marine creatures

    Kai was given laxatives for two weeks to clear out her system, as well as anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic medicines and appetite-boosting vitamins.  After six days no plastic had been spotted in the turtle’s stools and Kai was carried back to the sea to complete her recovery.‘Heart-breaking’ reality

    “It’s a very happy moment,” she said. “But sadly we can’t be sure that Kai won’t be back again if she eats more plastic.  “It’s heart-breaking, but it’s reality. We just have to do much more to make sure the plastics don’t get into the sea in the first place.”

    Caspar van de Geer runs the turtle hospital for the group Local Ocean Conservation at Watamu in eastern Kenya.  He had demonstrated earlier how uncannily a plastic film pulsating in the water column mimics the actions of the jellyfish some turtles love to eat.

    “Turtles aren’t stupid,” he said. “It’s really difficult to tell the difference between plastics and jellyfish, and it may be impossible for a turtle to learn.”

    On a pin board he’s compiled a grid of sealed clear plastic bags like the ones used at airports for cosmetics.  Here they contain the plastic fragments removed from the stomachs of sick turtles. Half of the turtles brought here after eating plastics have died.  A huge table at the hospital is laden with an array of plastic waste collected off local beaches – from fishing nets and nylon ropes to unidentifiable fragments of plastic film.

    Each bag contains plastic fragments removed from the stomach of a turtle

    Certainly, there has been a flurry of resistance from plastics firms to the bans occurring across Africa.

    One UN delegate, who did not want to be named, told the BBC that journalists in some countries were being paid by the plastics industry to write stories about job losses following the plastic bag ban.  In Kenya, a long newspaper report counted job losses from the sudden closure of a plastics plant. But it did not mention the jobs being created in alternatives, such as labour-intensive basketwork, which provides work for the rural poor.

    But some governments are standing firm, and the meeting has witnessed individual nations declaring tougher action against single-use plastic bags on their own territory.  South Africa and Cameroon are the latest to declare a tax on the thin bags which strew Africa’s fields and cities.

    Nations with a near total ban include Mauretania, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mauritius, Zanzibar and Uganda.

    Bangladesh imposed a ban in 2002 after plastic bags blocked drains and contributed to major floods.  Sri Lanka and others adopted a ban for similar reasons, although in Mauretania a ban came because cattle were getting sick from eating plastic.

    Whatever the motivation for restrictions, sea creatures will eventually benefit from a slackening in the tide of waste.  The UN’s spokesman Sam Barratt told BBC News: “Of course we would have liked to have gone further, but this meeting has made real progress. There’s now a sense of urgency and energy behind the issue that we haven’t quite seen before.  What is obvious, though, is that the UN can’t solve this problem on its own. We need to do it in partnership with governments, businesses and even individuals.”

    Whilst the UN grinds slowly forward, one delegate said that the meeting had been really useful for ministers to share their experiences on action they had taken in their own countries. Laggards were learning from progressives, he said.  He highlighted collaborative action from states along Africa’s Atlantic coast to clamp down on the waste that infests their seas. The UK may be brought into that partnership thanks to its British Overseas Territory of St Helena.

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Green Cleaning – Plastic Free

Do you want to reduce the amount of plastics you use?  There’s a lot more you can do besides taking your own bags to the supermarket or a reusable drinks holder out with you. The cupboard under your kitchen sink is probably packed with products in plastic containers………well why not Make your own cleaning products?
There is really no need to purchase ‘wonder’ pre-packaged cleaning products. Try making your own with products you can buy in bulk, and usually in cardboard. You’ve probably got all the ingredients in your cupboard.

All purpose cleaner: 

Fill an old spray bottle with vinegar and water. 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water.

All purpose disinfectant: 

Fill an old spray bottle with 3 cups of hot water, 3 teaspoons of borax and 10 drops of eucalyptus, lemon or lavender oil.

Clean a burnt fry pan: 

Fill pan with a layer of water, add 1 cup of vinegar, bring to boil. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of baking soda (note: it will fizz). Empty the pan and scourer.

Clean microwaves: 

Combine 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1 cup water in a microwavable container. Boil mixture for 3 mins. Let it stand in microwave for 10 mins. Wipe inside of microwave with a damp cloth.

Clean mirrors: 

Pour a little vinegar onto a scrunched up sheet of newspaper and wipe mirror. Dry with a clean sheet of newspaper.

Clean toilets: 

Sprinkle bicarb / baking soda into the bowl. Rinse with vinegar and scrub.

Cleaning rags: 

Instead of buying cleaning rags wrapped in plastic recycle old towels, flannels and sheets that are well passed their used-by date. Cut them us, use, the wash!

Descale your kettle: 

Half fill the kettle with water, drop a couple of slices of lemon and boil. Repeat once. Dry with a cloth.


Fabric softener: 

Add one cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle. 

Make your drinking glasses shine: 

Soak in a solution of vinegar and water. Dry with a cloth.



Remove rust (from tins): 

Rub with a peeled potato dipped in bicarb / baking soda or salt.

Remove rust (from cutlery): 

Polish cutlery with a paste of bicarb / baking soda and vinegar.


Remove soap scum:

  1. from a shower screenFill an old spray bottle with vinegar and spay the screen. Leave for 3-5 mins then wipe with a clean towel, scrubbing lightly.
  2. from a shower screen: For stubborn screen stains squeeze some homemade toothpaste onto a sponge and scrub.


Soak and whiten nappies/diapers: 

Dissolve 1/4 cup of bicarb / baking soda in warm water. Soak overnight. Wash nappies as normal. Saves you a fortune on disposable nappies/diapers too!!!

Unblock a drain: 

Pour 1/3 cup of bicarb / baking soda into drain followed by 1 cup of white vinegar. Immediately seal the drain with the plug. Leave 1 hour and pour boiling water down the drain.

Washing dishes by hand: 

Add 4tbs of baking soda to the hot water.

Washing dishes in dishwasher: 

Mix 1 cup borax, 1 cup bicarb / baking soda and 1/2 cup salt. Add 1 tablespoon of the mixture in the “soap/tablet” compartment. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to the “rinse agent” compartment.

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Plastic Free July

plastic-free-july-logo-straight-lge

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Ocean Plastics – How does that affect me?

ocean pollution cycle.gif

Experts are warning that humans “have the most to lose” from the manmade, toxic pollutants that marine life are being exposed to.

A leading scientist reported to Sky News that the millions of tonnes of plastic pollution floating in the world’s oceans could pose a threat to human health.

 Dr Robbie Smith, from the Bermuda Natural History Museum, warned plastic rubbish is attracting other chemical pollutants washed into the sea – such as flame retardants and pesticides – as sunlight breaks plastic down and waves churn it into tiny fragments.

Because the plastic pieces look so similar to the natural prey of marine animals, the chemicals then get passed up the food chain.

Dr Smith said: “The more we look where plastic is and the form it’s in, big or small, the stronger it is integrated into food webs.

“The only place it can go once it is in the food web is up to the top, and we are sitting at the top. So we have the most to lose here.”  Scientists have already found evidence of toxic chemicals in other predators at the top of the marine food chain.

The Sky News team joined the Ocean Tech team on an expedition to the Challenger Bank several miles off the Bermudan coast.  There, the scientists caught a three-metre (9.8ft) tiger shark and took biopsies from its fin for toxicology tests.

Choy Aming, who is part of the team, said: “As animals are digesting, the animals they have eaten have also ingested the toxins, the plastics and manmade pollutants we are putting into the ocean.

“So they work their way up the food chain into the sharks. Typically they have large levels because they are a top predator.”

Bermuda is increasingly alarmed by the amount of rubbish washing up on its shores.

It is on the edge of the Atlantic garbage patch, a swirling mass of plastic that is hundreds of kilometres wide and has been concentrated by the ocean currents.

microplastics
Plastics disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces

 

Scientists trawling a fine-mesh net have found up to 200,000 pieces per square kilometre.  Most are just millimetres across – fragments of the myriad of plastic items in use today.

Sky News was taken by marine conservationist Chris Flook to Castle Island, a remote part of the Bermudan archipelago. High tide had brought in a sheen of almost invisible microplastic.  He said: “Out in the ocean you would see small fish and jellyfish feeding on stuff that is blue, white and purple.  “And (the plastic) we see here is blue, white and purple.  “This is the nightmare here, when the plastic gets to this size.”

Eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the world’s oceans every year. That is the equivalent of one full rubbish lorry’s worth every minute.

But the plastic does not disappear – it just disintegrates into ever smaller pieces over several decades.

By 2050, it is predicted that so much plastic will have accumulated in the world’s oceans that it will weigh more than all the fish combined.

A reminder of our four point plan to tackle this issue and how you can help

 

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World Oceans Day – What’s it got to do with me?

WOD-logo

#WorldOceansDay is on June 8th.  It is an annual celebration of the oceans and how important they are to everyone.

“But what’s that got to do with me?”  I hear you say……”I live miles from the ocean”.  You probably think it’s a bunch of hippy surfers who have nothing in common with you.  Well you are WRONG!!

The oceans are the lifeblood of this planet.  They flow over nearly three quarters of the planet and hold 97% of the planet’s water.  They produce more than half the oxygen in the atmosphere and absorb most of the carbon from it.

No matter how far from the shore that you live, oceans still affect your life and the lives of your families and friends, classmates and colleagues.

The air that you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the products that keep you warm, safe, informed, and entertained — all can come from or be transported by the ocean.

So, how does your plastic bag or bottle get into the ocean, and what is the alternative?

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World Oceans Day – the effects and what YOU can do TODAY.

world oceans day2

World Oceans Day is an annual celebration on June 8th which has been in existence since 2002.

A healthy world ocean is critical to our survival. Every year, World Oceans Day provides a unique opportunity to help protect and conserve the world’s oceans. Oceans are very important:

  • They generate most of oxygen we breathe    
  • They help feed us
  • They regulate our climate
  • They clean the water we drink
  • They offer a pharmacopoeia of medicines
  • They provide limitless inspiration!

If you participate in a World Oceans Day event or activity this year you can help protect the ocean for the future! It’s up to each one of us to help ensure that our ocean is healthy for future generations. World Oceans Day allows us to:

  • Change perspective – encourage individuals to think about what the ocean means to them and what it has to offer all of us with hopes of conserving it for present and the future generations.
  • Learn – discover the wealth of diverse and beautiful ocean creatures and habitats, how our daily actions affect them, and how we are all interconnected.
  • Change our ways – we are all linked to, and through, the ocean! By taking care of your backyard and helping in your community, you are acting as a caretaker of our ocean. Making small modifications to your everyday habits will make a difference, and involving your family, friends, and community will benefit our blue planet even more!
  • Celebrate – whether you live inland or on the coast, we are all connected to the ocean. Take the time to think about how the ocean affects you, and how you affect the ocean, and then organize or participate in activities that celebrate our ocean.

 

If we do nothing, then the future for our Planet is very bleak.  Henderson Island, an uninhabited island in the South Pacific is littered with the highest density of plastic waste anywhere in the world, according to a study.  Part of the UK’s Pitcairn Islands group, the island has an estimated 37.7 million pieces of debris on its beaches.

37 million trash

The island is near the centre of an ocean current, meaning it collects much rubbish from boats and South America.  The joint Australian and British study said the rubbish amounted to 671 items per square metre and a total of 17 tonnes.

“A lot of the items on Henderson Island are what we wrongly refer to as disposable or single-use,” said Dr Jennifer Lavers from the University of Tasmania.

henderson island

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, described how remote islands act as a “sink” for the world’s rubbish.

In addition to fishing items, Henderson Island was strewn with everyday things including toothbrushes, cigarette lighters and razors. Dr Lavers added  “Land crabs are making their homes inside bottle caps, containers and jars,”

hermit_crab8_jpg__1500x670_q85_crop_subsampling-2

“At first it looks a little bit cute, but it’s not. This plastic is old, it’s sharp, it’s brittle and toxic.”  A large number of hard hats of “every shape, colour and size” were also discovered, the marine scientist said.

It is hoped that people will “rethink their relationship with plastic”.

Scale of waste

Henderson Island is listed by Unesco as a coral atoll with a relatively unique ecology, notable for 10 plant and four bird species.

It is 190km (120 miles) from Pitcairn Island, about 5,000km from Chile, and sits near the centre of the South Pacific Gyre – a massive rotating current.

The condition of the island highlighted how plastic debris has affected the environment on a global scale, Dr Lavers said.

“Almost every island in the world and almost every species in the ocean is now being shown to be impacted one way or another by our waste,” she said.

“There’s not really any one person or any one country that gets a free pass on this.”

She said plastic was devastating to oceans because it was buoyant and durable.

The research was conducted by the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and the Centre for Conservation Science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Courtesy of Greg Dunlop, BBC

On World Oceans Day make your first move towards a cleaner, safer ocean by taking the simple step of reducing your use of single-use plastics.  Here are 10 simple ways YOU can make difference TODAY!

use less plastic

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Biodegradable Plastics – Solution or Problem?

UN’s top environmental scientist warns bottles and bags do not break down easily and sink, as report highlights the ubiquity of plastic debris in oceans.

Biodegradable plastic water bottles and shopping bags are a false solution to the ubiquitous problem of litter in the oceans, the UN’s top environmental scientist has warned.

plastic-debris-on-shore
Plastic debris washed up on shoreline.  Photo by Paul Quayle/Alamy

Most plastic is extremely durable, leading to large plastic debris and “microplastics” to spread via currents to oceans from the Arctic to the Antarctic, a UN report found.

Greener plastics that breakdown in the environment have been marketed as a sustainable alternative that could reduce the vast amount of plastic waste that ends up in the sea after being dumped. But Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the UN Environment Programme, told the Guardian that these biodegradable plastics were not a simple solution.

plastic-bag-in-ocean

“It’s well-intentioned but wrong. A lot of plastics labelled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of 50C and that is not the ocean. They are also not buoyant, so they’re going to sink, so they’re not going to be exposed to UV and break down,” she said.

 

Speaking at the the UN environment assembly in Nairobi, where 170 countries met in May 2016 and passed, among many others, a resolution on microplastics, she added: “We have detected plastics in places as far away as the Chagos Islands [in the Indian Ocean]. Even if you are remote, you are not safe from it.”

un-assembly

More than 300m tonnes of plastic were produced in 2014 and that is expected to swell to nearly 2,000m tonnes by 2050 on current trends, the UN report said. While the exact amount that reaches the oceans is not known, the report concluded: “plastic debris, or litter, in the ocean is now ubiquitous.”

The spread of everything from large plastic debris such as fishing gear which dolphins can become entangled with, to fragments smaller than 5mm in diameter known as microplastics, has ecological, social and economics costs.

Jellyfish, for example, are using plastic as a habitat and to hitch a ride, allowing them to extend their range. The spread of jellyfish is considered bad news by experts because of the amount of plankton they eat, taking away food from fish and other marine life.

“There is a moral argument that we should not allow the ocean to become further polluted with plastic waste, and that marine littering should be considered a ‘common concern of humankind’,” the report’s authors wrote.

The main solution to plastics in the ocean is better waste collection and recycling, particularly in the developing world, the UN said. But McGlade said that some of the biodegradable additives in plastic to allow it to break down made it harder to recycle, and potentially harmful in the natural environment.

“When you start adding all of that [additives], when it becomes waste, they [the additives] become the enemy of the environment. As consumers we need to think of the use of plastic,” she said.

The UN report said that it was only in the past decade that plastics in the ocean had been taken seriously. “Warnings of what was happening were reported in the scientific literature in the early 1970s, with little reaction from much of the scientific community.”

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