A problem… The plastic bottles, bags and takeaway containers that we use just for a few minutes use a material that is designed to last forever.
break up, not break down – becoming permanent pollution
are mostly downcycled (made into low grade product for just one more use) or sent to landfill
‘escape’ from bins, trucks, events etc. to become ‘accidental litter’
end up in waterways and the ocean – where scientists predict there will be more tonnes of plastic than tonnes of fish by 2050
transfer to the food chain – carrying pollutants with them
increase our eco-footprint – plastic manufacturing consumes 6% of the world’s fossil fuels
Every bit of plastic ever made still exists and in the first 10 years of this century the world economy produced more plastic than the entire 1900’s!
More than 6 out of 10 of us are already refusing plastic shopping bags, avoiding pre-packed fruit and veg, picking up other people’s litter and avoiding buying bottled water.
Choosing to be part of the solution, you can act by:
Avoiding products in plastic packaging (choose alternatives)
Reducing where possible (opt for refills, remember your reusable shopping bags)
Refusing plastics that escape as litter (e.g. straws, takeaway cups, utensils, balloons)
Recycling what cannot be avoided
Are you in for the Plastic Free July #choosetorefuse challenge?
Have you ever wondered how you could cut down the amount of plastic you throw away? Why not try taking your own plastic challenge to see how many single-use plastics you can swap out of your everyday life? Making a small change like using a refillable bottle might not seem heroic, but, as less than half of the 13 billion single-use plastic bottles sold in Britain each year are recycled, your actions can help make a huge difference. Look at our top tips below for inspiration and share your stories with us on Facebook and Twitter!
Diet and exercise define our body shape and can determine our future health. To stay healthy, we think about what we eat or drink and take action on how much. Likewise the health of the Earth is determined by how we treat it – whether we feed it properly or starve it of resrouces; whether we work out or let it go flabby?
We can damage our bodies by overeating and also by undereating. We also damage the Earth if we strip it of the natural resources it needs to thrive – such as the Rainforests. If we continue to strip away the Rainforests at the current rate of 32 million acres per year we will increase the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere by 20% (according to figures from WWF).
Oceans are under threat from us feeding it with our pollution which not only affects the sealife but also enters the food chain and ultimately affects us. Global warming also affects the availability of fresh, clean water for human, animals and agriculture.
Coral reefs (the rainforests of the oceans) are critical marine habitats – but oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb carbon dioxide from our atmosphere.
We exercise to keep our bodies functioning efficiently. The Earth needs protection from the Sun’s harmful ultra violet rays to carry on functioning efficiently. It is more than 20 years since scientists discovered a gaping hole in the ozone layer. The efforts made to ban or reduce harmful chemicals have initiated a gradaul recovery of this hole; but like exercise, once you stop it’s so easy to fall back into bad habits.
Finally, we all need sleep to stay healthy as a lack of sleep leads to fatigue, lowers your immunity making you more likely to develop diseases such as diabetes and heart problems. The Earth is increasingly fatigued as we drain it of resources without allowing it to replenish itself.
Overfishing of the oceans has a devastating impact not only on the supplies of food for us all but also on the economies of the coastal communities that depend upon this resource. We cannot continue to take more fish out of the ocean than can be replaced. We also cannot continue to ignore the Earth’s fatigue when we choose to use fossil fuels instead of exploring renewal energy sources.
We sustain our body by nurturing it and looking after it – and many of us take pride in doing so. Does not the planet that we live on and depend upon for our very existence deserve the same consideration?
We all have a part to play in this endeavour – just like the choices we make in our everyday lives have an impact on our own health – other choices we make have an impact on the health of the planet. You can choose to buy foods that have come from a sustainable source, or you can choose to reduce your use of plastic bottles and bags – simple steps and achievable. Just like going to the gym, you start off slowly and gradually build yourself up until staying healthy is a way of life and you can’t imagine ever living any other way.
Without a healthy Earth there isn’t a healthy anything!
2016 has proved to be the hottest year on record for the third year in a row and now more than 1 in 6 species is at risk of extinction due to climate change. Earth Hour is a global movement that brings people together across the continents to call for greater action.
Last year a record number of 178 countries took part – a number that rises every year. From the Sydney Opera House and the Eiffel Tower to Buckingham Palace and Edinburgh Castle, cities, towns and communities like yours across the world switch out their lights and come together for an hour, to join a global show of support for action on climate.
So for just ONE HOUR at 8.30pm on Saturday March 25th (wherever you are) we are simply asking that you turn off your lights and power down as many things as you can.
And that’s all there is to it!!
Climate change poses a fundamental threat to everything we love. Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and new and more frequent weather extremes will leave no continent untouched. Impacts are already being felt by many communities and ecosystems worldwide. Water supplies are shrinking, crop yields are dropping, forests are burning, and our oceans are becoming more acidic. This has huge implications for our livelihoods and human security.
The task and hand is managing the unavoidable impacts and, at the same time, mitigating the impact of future climate impacts.
To have a chance of preventing dangerous global warming, the vast majority of fossil fuels—the biggest driver of climate change—have to be left in the ground. Fortunately, renewable energy alternatives are growing rapidly and a more competitive than ever; helping to shield the world from the worst climate risks, while improving human health, boosting our economies, and creating jobs.
Why Does it Matter?
Governments and scientists have agreed that global warming must remain under 2°C to avoid catastrophic climate change. The mean global temperature has already risen by almost a full degree since the start of the Industrial Revolution (c. 1750). At the United Nations climate talks in Paris in December 2015, governments acknowledged the growing threat of climate change and agreed to work towards keeping warming to 1.5°C.
The world can still avoid dangerous climate change, but action is needed urgently to cut emissions and to prepare communities and ecosystems for a hotter world.
People around the world are facing extreme weather. From more dangerous floods and storms, to droughts and heatwaves, extreme weather events are growing in frequency and intensity. We’re loading more and more heat into the air and seas, upping the risks, costing trillions of dollars, and mounting an even bigger toll on people, with the poorest the most exposed.
Climate change is a health emergency. Extremes of heat, more intense drought, ferocious storms, and more torrential downpours are already undermining human health and security. We risk undoing years of public health gains if we let global warming get away. Climate change and our continued dependence on dirty energy are polluting our air, increasing the spread of disease, fuelling food insecurity and malnutrition, and making water supplies scarcer and less safe. A world of more than 2°C would see an increasing number of people move across borders, exacerbate inequity, and raise the risk of conflict and social strife.
The oceans are warming and acidifying. People and wildlife depend on the healthy oceans: a vital source of livelihoods and sustenance. The oceans have absorbed most of extra heat and carbon dioxide (CO2) so far—more than the air—making the seas both warmer and more acidic. Warming waters are bleaching coral reefs and driving stronger storms. Rising ocean acidity threatens shellfish, including the tiny crustaceans without which marine food chains would collapse.
The ice is melting and the seas are rising. Sea ice in the Arctic is shrinking before our eyes with summer sea ice expected to virtually disappear before 2050. This would have dangerous consequences for global weather, not to mention degrade the region’s marvellous ecosystem. In the Antarctic and Arctic, massive ice shelves are disintegrating and breaking away. Glaciers are retreating at alarming rates worldwide, threatening a sea-level rise of several metres by century’s end.
Our ecosystems are in peril. As climate change wreaks havoc across the globe, ecosystems could undergo serious and irreversible changes, and even disappear altogether. The increase in average temperatures will see optimal habitats for many species move higher up mountains and further towards the poles. Where there is no higher ground or where changes are taking place too quickly, local losses or even global extinctions will follow.
How does this affect our Oceans?
The marine environment is already registering the impacts of climate change. The current increase in global temperature of 0.7°C since pre-industrial times is disrupting life in the oceans, from the tropics to the poles.
Marine species affected by climate change include plankton – which forms the basis of marine food chains – corals, fish, polar bears, walruses, seals, sea lions, penguins, and seabirds.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a further rise of between 1.4°C and 5.8°C by the end of the century. Climate change could therefore well be the knock-out punch for many species which are already under stress from overfishing and habitat loss.
The key impacts of climate change on the marine environment are…
One of the most visually dramatic effects of climate change is coral bleaching, a stress response caused by high water temperatures that can lead to coral death.
Recent years have seen widespread and severe coral bleaching episodes around the world, with coral mortality reaching 70% in some regions.
Most scientists believe that global warming will herald a new era of extreme and unpredictable weather.
Tropical storms and heavier rainfall may increase and so too would the consequent physical damage to coral reefs, other coastal ecosystems, and coastal communities. Hurricanes Hugo and Marilyn hit the US Virgin Islands National Park in 1989 and 1995, respectively, and did massive damage to coral ecosystems.
As the oceans warm, the location of the ideal water temperature may shift for many species.
A study has shown that fish in the North Sea have moved further north or into deeper water in response to rising sea temperatures. Other species may lose their homes for other reasons. The distribution of penguin species in the Antarctic Peninsula region, for example, is changing with reductions in sea ice due to global warming.
Rising temperatures can directly affect the metabolism, life cycle, and behaviour of marine species.
For many species, temperature serves as a cue for reproduction. Clearly, changes in sea temperature could affect their successful breeding.
The number of male and female offspring is determined by temperature for marine turtles, as well as some fish and copepods (tiny shrimp-like animals on which many other marine animals feed). Changing climate could therefore skew sex ratios and threaten population survival.
Rising sea levels
Global sea levels may rise by as much as 69cm during the next 100 years due to melting of glaciers and polar ice, and thermal expansion of warmer water.
Rising water levels will have serious impacts on marine ecosystems. The amount of light reaching offshore plants and algae dependent on photosynthesis could be reduced, while coastal habitats are already being flooded.
Rapid sea level rise will likely be the greatest climate change challenge to mangrove ecosystems, which require stable sea levels for long-term survival.
Vertical mixing in the ocean is important for many reasons, including transporting nutrients from deep to shallow waters, and surface water rich in oxygen into deeper waters. In some areas, changes to ocean temperature profiles induced by climate change are causing a reduction in the amount of mixing, and for example, reducing oxygen levels at depth.
After absorbing a large proportion of the carbon dioxide released by human activities, the oceans are becoming acidic. If it weren’t for the oceans, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be much higher.
The effect could be that fish, squid, and other gilled marine animals may find it harder to “breathe”, as the dissolved oxygen essential for their life becomes difficult to extract as water becomes more acidic. And shellfish, crabs, lobsters, and corals may find it more difficult to build their calcium carbonate shells. In some areas, calcium carbonate shells may even start to dissolve.
Scientists in Norway found more than 30 plastic bags inside the stomach of a whale stranded in shallow waters off the island of Sotra, Norway. The creature had very little blubber and was emaciated, suggesting that the plastic had led to it becoming malnourished.
The Cuvier beaked whale was put down by wardens after it became apparent that it wasn’t going to live and had clearly consumed a large amount of non-biodegrabeable waste.
When researchers at the University of Bergen performed an autopsy on the mammal, they analyzed the stomach contents and found huge amounts of plastic, including 30 plastic bags and other plastic packaging with labels in Danish and English. Dr Terje Lislevand, a zoologist who studies whales added that the intenstines were also probably blocked up with plastic, causing severe pain. Unfortunately, they weren’t shocked by this but Dr Lislevand said that it very sad to find such large quantities.
The following video may contain distressing scenes.
Cuvier’s beaked whales grow up to 22ft long and usually feed on squid and deep sea fish. They are not normally found in Norwegian waters. At the beginning of 2016 experts warned there will be more plastic than sealife in the oceans by 2050. At least 8 million tonnes of plastic already ends up in the ocean every year – the equivalent of a rubbish truck of waste every minute, according to the report from the World Economic Forum.
The rate of plastic pollution is only expected to increase as more and more plastic is used globally, especially in emerging economies with weaker waste and recycling regimes.
Some facts about plastic in our oceans
Every year millions of tonnes of plastic debris such as bags, bottles and food packaging seeps into our oceans.
As plastic degrades slowly, it pollutes the oceans for a long time.
It breaks down into fragments called micro-plastics, which are ingested by sealife.
It can badly affect living organisms as they become entangled in or ingest it, and they can become choked or poisoned.
Researchers estimate the amount of plastic in the oceas is set to increase tenfold by 2020.
There could be more plastic than life in our oceans by 2050.
If you visit our STOP page, you can find out how you can help with our campaign to Save the Oceans from Plastic.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water………….
At Green Waste Enterprises, one of our core values is to promote recycling and to educate people about the benefits of it for the environment. We have campaigned long and hard to reach this goal.
We were totally blown away, therefore to find out about 6-year-old Ryan Hickman from San Juan Capistrano, California. If there is one thing he loves, it’s sorting. So when, at the tender age of 3, his parents, let him come along to return some water bottles at a recycling center, he was thrilled to help.
“He likes to sort pretty much anything, and he liked putting the bottles in the machine,” Damion, said in a recent interview with The Capistrano Dispatch. “He probably got two or three bucks, and he was so excited about it. And of course then he got to sort his change, so that meant more sorting.”
There was no stopping Ryan after this and as soon as they got home Ryan told his Dad that he wanted to collect everyone’s recyclables. He even got his Mom and Dad to hand out garbage bags to all his neighbors.
That was the beginning of Ryan’s Recycling Company, established in 2012 in the family’s backyard. In the past 4 years he has already earned more than $10,000 by collecting cans and bottles from about 40 “customers” in five different neighborhoods.
Of course, being only 6 years old Ryan has to rely on his parents, grandmother and aunt to drive him around to collect his recyclables. Ryan’s sorting facility consists of eight large trash cans that he sorts containers into—bottles and cans, plastics and glass, they all have their place. Ryan has learnt the difference between the types of recyclables and why it is important to keep trash separated. Then every few weeks they visit the recycling center to cash in his hoard.
Since starting his business, Ryan has recycled 49,000 pounds of waste, 200,000 cans and bottles and has donated over $1,600 to charity. The rest of his earnings have gone straight into a college savings account.
In a YouTube video posted last July, Ryan’s Dad asks if other people should start recycling to help save the earth. He knows how important it is to keep trash out of our oceans to protect the environment and also the creatures that live in and around the oceans. He worries that the birds at the beach might eat the trash and get sick or die.
Ryan is an example to us all. If just one little boy can have get this much done, just imagine what we could achieve if WE ALL did just a fraction of what Ryan does.
“He’s very passionate about it, and he likes to get everybody else passionate about it as well,” his Mom said. “I think he’s rubbed off on all of us now. You find yourself walking past a can on the ground and needing to pick it up instead of walking away and leaving it there.”
This is exactly what we are trying to promote at Green Waste Enterprises. Ryan has shown that if you start young enough, then recycling just becomes a way of life. He doesn’t recycle because his Dad told him to do it……….he does it because he knows it is the right thing to do……….and he understands the benefits of it. Well done Ryan……….
MAKING WASTE WORTHWHILE!
with thanks to Allison Jarrell, Capistrano Dispatch
Have you made and broken your New Year Resolutions already? Did you vow to lose weight or learn a new language maybe? Well why not sign up for these Green Resolutions that are not only good for YOU but good for the PLANET.
Walk, run or cycle to work.
Not only is it better for the environment, but not using your car to for your morning commute will help you out on your resolution to lose weight. A brisk walk of more 30 minutes each day will lower your BMI and help to get rid of all those Christmas inches on your waist. Feeling fitter and healthier puts you in a good mood too! Many employers now operate a Cycle to Work scheme where you can get tax breaks to obtain cycles and safety equipment.
If you have to drive…..
Switch to petrol or even better an electric car. The UK Government’s Chief Medical Officer has said that diesel should be phased out to cut the tens of thousands of deaths caused each from air pollution Diesel cars emit more nitrous oxides (NOx), which can cause health problems for people who have lung and breathing problems. But petrol cars also emit higher levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). This has fewer immediate health risks than NOx but as it is a greenhouse gas this causes big problems for the environment as a whole. Air pollution contributes to at least 25,000 deaths in England each year through heart attacks and other respiratory diseases.
A greener alternative to using your own car is to join a car pool with colleagues from work. There are also a number of ride-sharing apps that you can sign up to like BlaBlaCar or UberPool which is a taxi service that matches up people travelling the same way and is hoped to launch in London by the end of this year.
Reduce the amount of meat you eat
There is growing evidence that the amount of meat we eat has a direct effect on the environment as it takes the same amount of energy to produce 1kg of meat as it does for 3-10kg of vegetables. According to the Vegan Society, their numbers have doubled from 150,000 to 300,000 in the last 9 years. It is now estimated that around 12% of Britons now follow a meat free diet. However, if you can’t give up meat completely, you can cut back on your meat consumption for a few days a week and try some alternative vegetarian meals instead.
Grow your own!!!
Growing, transporting, packaging food together with clearing the land for growing, accounts for as much as 30% of Britain’s carbon footprint. And there is a certain satisfaction in eating something you have grown yourself isn’t there? You only need a small patch in your back garden.
Take your own bag to the supermarket
In October 2015 the UK Government introduced a compulsory 5p charge for single use plastic bags. Since then the number used have fallen by an estimated 85%. In the first 6 months usage fell from more than 7 billion a year to less than half a billion. This was a saving of almost 41,000 tons of plastic – roughly 300 blue whales. It just needs a bit of planning to make sure you keep your own shopping bag handy in your bag or your car’s glove compartment.
Choose your cosmetics wisely
Microbeads are now in lots of everyday products like face and body scrubs. It is hoped that these will be banned by the end of this year under new Government proposals. The beads get flushed into rivers and oceans in their billions with an estimated 86 tons in the UK alone each year just from facial exfoliants. If you add these to the plastic bags that also end up in rivers and oceans and over time, gradually break down into microplastics you end up with a real danger to marine creatures and birds who end up eating the microplastics which causes damage to them as they are not able to digest them but can also end up as part of our food chain.
Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea
When you fill the kettle to make your tea or coffee, only fill the kettle with enough water for your immediate use. Most kettles nowadays have a gauge showing how full it is and you will cut down on the amount of energy used to boil and reboil water
If you use coffee pods, make sure you recycle them – don’t just throw them with the general trash that ends up in landfill. The UK spending on coffee pods rose by more than 30% in 2015 when we drank £109m worth. If buy your coffee in a carton to go, make sure you recycle this also. Last year, fewer than 1 in 400 high street coffee chain cups were recycled. Starbucks even announced that it would offer customers who bring their own coffee cups a 50p discount.
Turn your home green
There are many greener, natural alternatives to chemical cleaning products. Here are a few
Kitchen surface stain remover – make a paste from salt, lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda. This will leave a natural “lemon fresh” scent also.
Toilet cleaner – Use a can of cola to clean your toilet – YES REALLY!!! The drink contains carbonic, citric and phosphoric acids which are often found in household cleaning products. Leave the liquid to sit in the basin for an hour, then use a brush to clean and flush away. You can also use vinegar as an alternative as it works in a similar way.
Wood polish – heat grated beeswax, lanolin, sweet almond oil and lavender essential oil in a pan then leave it to cool. Clean wood floors with a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar.
Removing limescale – put 1/4 pint of vinegar in the kettle, fill up with water, bring to the boil and leave it overnight. The next morning rinse out well and fill, boil and discard the water twice before drinking. You can remove the limescale encrusted on taps if you soak a cloth in vinegar and wrap it round the taps and leave for an hour. Just wipe with a damp cloth after.
Cut your fuel bills (and help to save the Planet) by being fuel efficient. A cheap way to do this is to invest in some draught-proofing keeping those icy winter chills at bay. You might also get some thicker curtains which you should make sure are drawn at night to help keep you cosy. Some of the more expensive ways would be to consider getting a new boiler, loft or wall insulation and even solar panels. There are many grants available to help with insulation depending on the age and type of property you have.
We hope we have given you a few ideas on how to make this year a Greener Year We would like to know if YOU have any tips to share with us. Please comment below.
Blueberry hermit crabs in Okinawa, Japan, are resourceful little creatures. Like many beaches around the world, the shores where they live and breed have become progressively covered in plastic.
Hermit crabs, unlike other crabs, don’t make their own shells. They look for abandoned shells in their surrounding habitats, often going through multiple shells in a lifetime as they grow.
The shells have to be big enough for a crab to retreat into, snug enough to not fall off, and handy enough so a crab can easily lug it around.
It turns out that bottle caps fulfill these requirements, and hermit crabs are now frequently choosing them for their homes.
If you stroll along the shores of Okinawa, you can see crabs wearing caps from detergent and soda bottles.
It looks like a surreal art exhibit, a sardonic attempt to show how entwined our lives have become with plastic, or even how animals will take up the mantle of consumption in a post-human world.
Photographer Shawn Miller set out to photograph this strange phenomenon of environmental adaptation to give people a new way to think about the problem of plastic waste.
“Over the years,” Miller told Atlas Obscura, “I continued to find more crabs with trash homes. I noticed more trash piling up on our shorelines searching for hermit crabs and realized it was a serious problem.”
Globally, there are an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans.
Plastic poses numerous threats to marine life. It is often mistaken for food and ends up disrupting an animal’s health. It leaches toxic chemicals into the water, breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that ultimately blanket the ocean floors, and its accumulation can cause species to disperse from their habitats.
A few years ago, images of dead seagulls with bellies full of plastic junk swept across the Internet. The seagulls had consumed so much indigestible plastic that they eventually starved to death because their stomachs were full.
article originally published courtesy of globalcitizen.org. Pictures by Shawn Miller.
Plastic bag bans are spreading in the United States
Los Angeles rang in the 2014 New Year with a ban on the distribution of plastic bags at the checkout counter of big retailers, making it the largest of the 132 cities and counties around the United States with anti-plastic bag legislation. And a movement that gained momentum in California is going national. More than 20 million Americans live in communities with plastic bag bans or fees. Currently 100 billion plastic bags pass through the hands of U.S. consumers every year—almost one bag per person each day. Laid end-to-end, they could circle the equator 1,330 times. But this number will soon fall as more communities, including large cities like New York and Chicago, look for ways to reduce the plastic litter that blights landscapes and clogs up sewers and streams.
The following “mockumentary” narrated by Oscar winning actor Jeremy Irons tells of the “amazing” journey of a plastic bag from the supermarket checkout until it finally reaches the ocean and becomes yet another part of the Great Pacific Gyre.
While now ubiquitous, the plastic bag has a relatively short history. Invented in Sweden in 1962, the single-use plastic shopping bag was first popularized by Mobil Oil in the 1970s in an attempt to increase its market for polyethylene, a fossil-fuel-derived compound. Many American customers disliked the plastic bag when it was introduced in 1976, disgusted by the checkout clerks having to lick their fingers when pulling the bags from the rack and infuriated when a bag full of groceries would break or spill over. But retailers continued to push for plastic because it was cheaper and took up less space than paper, and now a generation of people can hardly conceive of shopping without being offered a plastic bag at the checkout counter.
The popularity of plastic grocery bags stems from their light weight and their perceived low cost, but it is these very qualities that make them unpleasant, difficult, and expensive to manage. Over one third of all plastic production is for packaging, designed for short-term use. Plastic bags are made from natural gas or petroleum that formed over millions of years, yet they are often used for mere minutes before being discarded to make their way to a dump or incinerator—if they don’t blow away and end up as litter first. The amount of energy required to make 12 plastic bags could drive a car for a mile.
In landfills and waterways, plastic is persistent, lasting for hundreds of years, breaking into smaller pieces and leaching out chemical components as it ages, but never fully disappearing. Animals that confuse plastic bags with food can end up entangled, injured, or dead. Recent studies have shown that plastic from discarded bags actually soaks up additional pollutants like pesticides and industrial waste that are in the ocean and delivers them in large doses to sea life. The harmful substances then can move up the food chain to the food people eat. Plastics and the various additives that they contain have been tied to a number of human health concerns, including disruption of the endocrine and reproductive systems, infertility, and a possible link to some cancers.
This is where YOU can get involved……….by signing our petition to #BanPlasticBags. It’s very easy and only involves a couple of clicks. You can sign using either your Facebook or Twitter account and share share share!!!!! We want to get enough signatures to take it to government to get single use plastic bags banned completely. Many places have introduced a tax/levy on each bag but whilst the money raised may be used for worthwhile causes, we want the option of having these bags taken away completely.
California—with its long coastline and abundant beaches where plastic trash is all too common—has been the epicenter of the U.S. movement against plastic bags. San Francisco was the first American city to regulate their use, starting with a ban on non-compostable plastic bags from large supermarkets and chain pharmacies in 2007. As part of its overall strategy to reach “zero waste” by 2020 (the city now diverts 80 percent of its trash to recyclers or composters instead of landfills), it extended the plastic bag ban to other stores and restaurants in 2012 and 2013. Recipients of recycled paper or compostable bags are charged at least 10ȼ, but—as is common in cities with plastic bag bans—bags for produce or other bulk items are still allowed at no cost. San Francisco also is one of a number of Californian cities banning the use of polystyrene (commonly referred to as Styrofoam) food containers, and it has gone a step further against disposable plastic packaging by banning sales of water in plastic bottles in city property.
According to a 2015 report published in Science magazine, it is estimated that about eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in global waters each year. The UK’s Marine Conservation Society say that in just one weekend, they found over 5,000 plastic bags on UK beaches. Without the hundreds of volunteer groups that regularly clean up the beaches, the majority of these bags would end up in the ocean.
Although the bags do not decompose, they do break down into smaller and smaller pieces and are then, in turn, eaten by birds and marine mammals. Some creatures can become entangled in the plastic bags which restricts their ability to feed and they die.
In order to try to combat this, the UK government has introduced a levy (currently 5p per bag) on single use plastic bags in large stores. Wales was the first in 2011, followed by Northern Ireland in 2013 and Scotland in 2014. England finally came into line in October 2015 and it has been reported that in the past six months the number of plastic bags used in seven major supermarkets has fallen to 640 million from an annual figure of 7.6 billion!! If this trend continues, it would represent a drop in usage of 83%.
Overall, according to government figures, large retailers (any store employing more than 250 staff) have sold 1.1 billion single use plastic bags raising £41.3m, of which £29.2m was donated to good causes such as environmental, education, health, arts, charities and other voluntary groups.
This is fantastic news as it means that marine life is safer, communities are cleaner and the bags that don’t end up in the ocean will not clog up our landfill sites for hundreds, possible thousands of years.
Guanabara Bay is the largest bay in the world by water volume and is a popular place for touring boats to sail. The bay commands breathtaking views of Sugar Loaf Mountain and will be the home for sailing events at the Olympic Games starting shortly in Brazil.
As well as Rio, there are several major ports in the Bay area which bring their own environmental costs to the area with major oil spillages that have affected the area for many years (the last one being in 2000 and which is still being cleaned up). The Bay once held a health ecosystem, large fishing stock and clean beaches, but deforestation and urban development have left the area littered with debris.
The release of raw sewage remains a major pollution problem for Guanabara’s water. Most of the 55 rivers that flow into the Bay have been declared ‘dead’ by scientists. Tonnes of stinking sewage from Rio’s millions of residents pour into the Bay untreated every day.
As part of the latest ‘Clean Guanabara’ plan announced by the government, when planning for the 2016 Olympics, seven new sewage treatment plants were promised. Disappointingly though, only one plant is in operation. Meanwhile, sports people training for the Rio Olympic sailing events increasingly report falling ill after capsizing their boats here. International Olympic sailing competitors have complained, during recent training, of falling ill after swallowing some of the polluted waters whilst trying to avoid plastic debris and dead animals floating in the waters. As well as these health hazards, discarded plastic bags can wrap themselves around the boats’ rudders which can be a setback in a sport where speed is of the essence.
Below is the official view of the Environment Secretary for Rio State – Andre Correa from an interview given on June 29th:
Q: Can you swim in the bay?
A: It depends on the location. There are places where you can swim. I swam in the area where the sailing will be. There was major work, a 1.2-billion-reais project ($356 million) but it’s not obvious to ordinary people. I think we have to take small steps. Knowing the financial difficulties of Brazil, whoever said the bay will be clean in less than 20, 25 years is lying.
Q: The pollution of Guanabara Bay has been on the official agenda since the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. What’s gone wrong?
A: There was a major error in strategy and communication. There was an investment of about 2.5 billion reais ($741 million) and the local people were told that with this funding, the bay would be clean. Those who understand this issue know that this isn’t enough funding to overcome the challenges. We will have a clean bay the day the 15 municipalities bordering it have sewage treatment. Studies show that’s going to require 15 billion reais ($4.4 billion), and we’re far from that goal. Brazil is having a financial crisis and Rio state doesn’t have the money. That’s why the government decided to seek help from the private sector.
Q: The Baia Viva environmental activist group says the pollution in the bay can cause disease. Should athletes be worried?
A: The bay is not a homogeneous body of water, it has various problems. But the water quality at the entrance of the bay, where the sailing competitions will be held, meets international standards. You can swim there. Water flows in from the sea. The major challenge as concerns the Olympics is floating waste. It’s a major problem that we face. The most important thing — more important than removing waste — is preventing it from getting there. We have installed 15 barriers and there will be 17 in place during the Games, eliminating 280 tons of waste per month. But we need people to realize that when they throw a plastic bottle on the ground, the rain will carry it to the bay and no government or investment can combat that. Environmental education is crucial.
Q: How much of the bay has been decontaminated? The authorities have said they would clean up 80 percent of the pollution, but on Tuesday the mayor said it would be 60 percent. Which is correct?
A: There was a big misunderstanding, resulting in a deficit in credibility. There was talk about objectives but there was no financial support for attaining them. I will not cite any specific rate. It is necessary that the regional government and the people refer to the same rate. In cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank and researchers, we are in the process of launching a digital platform so everyone can follow in real time what’s being done with the investments in the bay.
Q: Who’s responsible?
A: Brazil has a federal system. Various agencies are involved in managing the bay. Municipalities deal with waste. The Navy, a federal agency, is responsible for surface pollution. I’m responsible for industrial waste. We need a model to work in a coordinated manner in the bay.