Last year, a study showed about 8 million metric tons of plastic waste flowed into our seas and oceans, enough to grow a second Brazil.
Most of this trash comes from ten rivers that are highly populated; Yangzte, Indus, Yellow, Hai, Nile, The Ganges, Pearl, Amur, Niger and Mekong. The article states, it would be best to catch the waste at the source, but even better would be to reduce the use of plastic altogether.
Ireland, doesn’t rank high on the list of countries that produce the most plastic waste, however the sad reality is we rank as low as we do, because we choose to export our problem overseas and we are one of the top producers of plastic waste in Europe, producing 61 kilograms of plastic waste per person, per year.
In January 2018 it was reported that Ireland was exporting 95% of it’s plastic waste to China, who have declared they will no longer be accepting it. So what can we do to help our island, the oceans and the planet? “Give up straws!!!” you say. Well if it was only that easy. Straws aren’t helping, but being a not too incaaonvenient piece of plastic to give up, the straw bandwagon is overflowing with do-gooders and part-time “eco-warriors”. Alternatively, I give you a much more worrisome list of plastics that are destroying our oceans, laying siege to our rivers and holding our marine life hostage.
- Fishing Nets – When a fishing net begins to disintegrate, it too often gets dumped in the ocean leaving it for marine life to eat or become entangled in, and either way starving to death. The ocean’s creatures fill their belly up with plastic and can no longer eat anything of actual sustenance, leaving them to die a painful death, or they become caught in the net’s hooks and are left to languish on the end of a spike. These nets are commonly referred to as “ghost fishing nets”, as they drift through the ocean with a ghostlike quality forcing creatures to submit to its wake. Initiatives and businesses have been set up to recycle these nets in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way, however they haven’t yet been able to fully tackle the problem. Adidas designed a runner made from recycled fishing nets, which is a good way to highlight the issue, but this will not be enough to get us out of the red, so how can we make a significance difference here? My number one way would be to give up eating fish. The second option is to eat fish that has not been caught with nets. Easier said than done. Useful source on sustainable fishing from The Irish Wildlife Trust; here.
- Plastic Bags – Reusable shopping bags are widely available, and in Ireland we have the added incentive of avoiding them, as we’ve had to pay for our plastic bags since 2012. Long gone are the days when you get your plastic bag for free. You can extend the policy of bringing your own bags to replace the plastic bags we place our loose fruit and vegetables in. Caught without a bag? While packing a few vegetables in a plastic bag before weighing, consider if you can leave them loose? I personally weigh all my vegetables loose, and it saves me using a plastic bag with a life span equal to the time it takes you to travel from your local supermarket to your kitchen. For me, that’s about ten minutes.
- Coffee Cups – It came as a shock to many that their paper coffee cups were not actually recyclable. Recent pressure has encouraged coffee chains to offer incentives for customers who use reusable cups and some coffee houses now even use recyclable/compostable cups themselves. However, reusable is still the best option, as recycling cups is thirsty business, and requires a lot of energy and resources.
- Plastic Water Bottles – This one doesn’t seem to get the same coverage as coffee cups have enjoyed in recent years, but it’s as bad if not worse for the environment. BPA free bottles are readily available, so save yourself money, and help cut down on waste and plastic.
- Disposable Cutlery – A plethora of eco-friendly cutlery is out there. Same goes for lunch boxes. Try http://www.earthmother.ie for a range of options.
- Single-use cleaning products – J-cloths, bounty, wipes. They all make me cringe. One simple wipe and it’s dumped in the bin. Use tea clothes and at the very least cloths that have some durability. It’s even worth throwing your j-cloths in the wash to get a few more uses out of them.
- Menstrual Products – As women we need these products and it’s a personal item with some proving more user-friendly than others. If a menstrual cup feels out of your comfort zone, consider tampons without the plastic and cardboard applicators. But know that most tampons are drenched in some very worrisome chemicals.
- Microplastics- Microplastics consist of decomposing plastic waste, micro beads, synthetic fibres, to name but a few. They are believed to absorb toxins which can be harmful to humans, and microbeads have been banned in the UK since January, 2018. We know these toxic plastics enter our bodies through the water system and by consuming fish, but we don’t yet know how it might be affecting us. What we really need to do here, is cut down on every possible plastic to make our oceans healthier and happier, as well as ourselves.
The consoling thing here, is that all these plastics have more environmentally friendly alternatives. Please see a list to get started with below;
Fishing Nets (Further Reading) – https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/fish-net-recycling-money-for-old-rope-407047.html
Plastic Bags – https://littlegreenshop.ie/?product_cat=bags
Wipes – https://ie.iherb.com/pr/Charlie-Banana-Organic-Cotton-Multi-Usage-Wipes-10-Reusable-Wipes/76798?gclid=CjwKCAiA8rnfBRB3EiwAhrhBGqzlagENDvTLSxzR4c9BQhgd9N1M7kTJLGhUOf8JinwLeFdC1M-wZRoCkioQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Menstrual Products –