Unless you’ve been off the grid the past 12 months you can’t have failed to have noticed the overwhelming evidence concerning the planets reliance on single-use plastic. It has been predicted that if we don’t change our attitudes towards the use of this material, there will be more plastic in the seas by weight than fish by the year 2050 (The Guardian).
Currently, a frightening 8 million tones of plastic ends up in the oceans each year. With scary statistics like this, one might question whether there is anything we can personally do that would realistically make a difference to this enormous issue. But there are many simple changes that we can all make to help reduce our consumption and in-turn hopefully the manufacture of plastic.
The first thing we should all try to do regularly is Recycle. Recycling turns waste materials into useful and repurposed items and reduces the pressure on our landfills as well as protecting both air and land pollution.
It only takes a few minutes to rinse our plastic and tin containers and sort through cardboard and paper. Doing this to the best of our abilities will help the environment in more ways than you can imagine and protect future generations for years to come. If you are unsure of what to recycle, mywaste.ie has a handy leaflet that may help. Read more here.
Plastic bags do not decompose but remain in the environment for long periods of time. While incentives have been brought in to curb the use of plastic shopping bags, such as the bag levy introduced into Ireland in 2002. A simple thing we can all do is use reusable shopping bags.
Although you may not think it, we all probably own more than one reusable bag in our house. The key thing to remember is to have them to hand when we need them, whether this requires us to keep them in our car, near the front door or rolled up in our work bag.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), plastic bottles are one of the most frequently found items on beach cleans globally. The lids commonly end up in seabirds’ stomachs. So instead, carry a reusable water bottle and fill up before you leave the house or at work. Personally, we like steel or glass bottles that are easy clean and better for the environment than plastic.
Less than 1% of disposable coffee cups are recyclable, which means most will spend decades in landfills. So, instead, carry a reusable coffee cup, many cafes offer a discount when you use your own cup and there are so many brands that now offer all manner of cup options for on the go!
If possible, try to buy your cupboard staples such as rice, pasta and porridge in bulk and keep them in glass jars. This will help you avoid buying products that have significant packaging and it is also likely to be kinder to your pocket. Try to avoid food that has unnecessary packaging and opt for items that are loose with no added plastic or cling film which can’t be recycled.
You can help reduce your plastic consumption by purchasing products that are created or packaged recycled, recyclable or biodegradable materials such as VOYA’s. Our packaging board is a special blend of FSC certified pulps using our own harvested seaweed and even the packing chips we use are 100% biodegradable and dissolves in water.
VOYA has also helped protect over 6,098 m2 of world wildlife habitat by cutting its carbon emissions and supporting the World Land Trust.
In Ireland, a competition called Junk Kouture takes place each year, in which secondary school students are challenged to create unique, original and innovative outfits from both recycled materials and junk. Concerned about the amount of plastic washing up in our oceans VOYA intern Bríd, through her school entered the Junk Kouture competition to try to help decrease the amount of plastic on our beaches and seas. She collected plastic from local businesses to create an entire outfit made from polythene, hair nets and old lampshades. Check out her amazing creation and if you think it's as stunning as us, you can place your vote for Brid here. Voting is open until Friday the 22nd February 2019 and you can vote once a day.
This innovative idea should inspire anyone to use materials for upcycling purposes and perhaps shows how in the future this material can be repurposed into clothes or products.
According to the Centre for Biological Diversity plastic and other litter has the following impact on marine life:
- In the Pacific Ocean alone fish ingest up to 24,000 tons of plastic each year. This plastic ends up transferring upwards in the food chain to humans.
- Sea turtles can mistake floating plastic garbage for food. They can choke, sustain an injury and die — or starve by thinking they’re full after eating plastic.
- Hundreds of thousands of seabirds ingest plastic every year. Plastic ingestion reduces the storage volume of the stomach, causing starvation. It’s estimated that 60% of all seabird species have eaten pieces of plastic, with that number predicted to increase to 99% by 2050. (Centre for Biological Diversity, 2019)
You can help keep Ireland's waterways, coastlines, seas and ultimately our marine life safe by participating in a local beach clean. Check out http://cleancoasts.org or if you are in Sligo visit Aid the Ocean on Facebook to find out when your nearest beach clean is taking place.
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