Tag Archives: plastic pollution

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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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,”

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“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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