Thursday, May 31, 2018

Plenty more trash in the sea

We use the phrase "plenty more fish in the sea" to console someone on a missed opportunity. In coming years there'll be more plastic than fish in the oceans. We may need to update the expression for our polluted world.

How did it get to this?

How did we get enough plastic in ocean to outnumber all the fish? The numbers tell the story. Globally we buy a million plastic bottles a minute. Each year we use 5 trillion plastic bags and millions of tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean. The average Australian generates 107 kg of plastic pollution a year. Only 14% of this is recycled. The rest ends up in landfill or the ocean where it takes around 100 years to degrade.

In 2016, a yoghurt container from the '76 Olympics washed up on a beach in France. Closer to home, Gold Coast man Jim Hinds picks rubbish out of the waterways. He averages about 10,000 items per month.

So this year's World Environment Day theme is Beat Plastic Pollution.

Why does this matter?

100,000 sea creatures are killed by plastics each year. Birds that eat floating plastic, thinking it's food, have been found dead with hundred of pieces of plastic filling their stomach. It is also a problem for humans as we eat the fish that eat the tiny pieces of plastic.

What can we do?

Here in Australia we have an initiative called Plastic Free July. For one month, or for the year, you can pledge to avoid the 4 main types of disposable plastic - bags, bottles, straws and coffee cups. We can upgrade to re-usable containers, and use the sites Responsible Cafes and Trashless Takeaway to identify business that accept reusable containers. Some even give discounts.

Our consumer behaviour can help businesses be more responsible, and policy can help support these changes. Here in Queensland we're phasing out single-use plastic bags and later this year we'll start a container deposit system for plastic drink bottles - along with bottles and cans.

This can also be chance for community groups (churches, scouts, sports clubs) to collect containers as a fundraiser while also improving the environment.

Hopefully we can keep plastic out of the ocean, out of our fish and out of our bodies.

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