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Guest Post by Greenpeace Oceans Team

(Oceans Team)

Since Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II aired, ocean plastic pollution has been at the top of everyone’s agenda. And it is for good reason. It is estimated that a rubbish truck worth of plastic enters the ocean every minute. And once plastic pollution enters the marine environment it becomes a hazard for wildlife, causing them to become entangled in it. Larger pieces of plastic also break down into smaller pieces, namely microplastics. Many marine animals mistake this for food and accidentally ingest it. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 3 sea turtles have ingested plastic as well as 90% of seabirds. What is equally frightening is that plastic is now making its way up the food chain. It has been found in everything from seafood to sea salt, beer and even our tap water. But what can be done to turn back the tide on the tsunami of plastic pollution?

Image by Caroline Power. More here: https://imgur.com/gallery/iIT5m

Last month, Theresa May announced the government’s 25 year environmental plan. In it she announced measures to help tackle ocean plastic pollution. They include extending the plastic bag charge to also include smaller retailers. Since its introduction in 2015, it has been credited with a drop in the use of plastic bags by 80%. Extending the ban will likely see this number increase. She also announced that the government is going to look into ways that it can tax single use plastic items. This can include a tax on single use coffee cups, which are difficult to recycle due to the plastic lining inside them.  She also recommended that supermarkets introduce plastic free aisles, announced funding for water refill stations around the country and pledged to eliminate avoidable plastic items by 2042. But is there more that we can do? Below are some tips on how we can all help in the fight to end ocean plastics.

1. Demand UK-wide DRS. These are schemes where you pay a little bit extra when you purchase a plastic bottle and have the money refunded to you when you return the bottle for recycling. These schemes are used around the world and have been credited with increasing recycling rates for plastic bottles up to 90%. Scotland has already signaled that they will introduce such a system and the Environment Audit Committee have recommended that Westminster do the same. Greenpeace have a petition calling on Westminster to introduce DRS which you can sign here.

2. Bring your own bags when you go shopping. Since the introduction of the 5p charge for plastic bags, plastic bag use has fallen by 80%. Plastic bags can take centuries to decompose. They also look like jellyfish when they are floating in water which are sea turtles and whales favourite food. So by bringing your own bag, you can reduce the amount of plastic found in the ocean and protect marine wildlife as well.

3. Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup. Global sales of bottled water quadrupled between 1990 and 2005 and only 1 in 400 coffee cups are recycled. Refilling your water bottle and bringing your own coffee cups will not only save you money but also save the oceans. You can even get a discount for your coffee at several coffee shops.

4. Refuse plastic straws. Over 500 million straws are used every day. What may seem like a convenience for 20 minutes unfortunately lasts in our oceans for hundreds of years. If you must use a straw, there are reusable alternatives made from paper, steel or bamboo.

5. Plastic free food Shopping. Ditching the plastic at the supermarket can be quite a difficult task. But we can start by buying loose fruit and vegetables or using refillable containers if the option exists. We can also choose to purchase products packaged in glass and cardboard over those packaged in plastic. The good news is that Iceland supermarket has announced that they are planning to go plastic-free in their own brand by 2023. We hope that other supermarkets will also follow suit.

Image by Caroline Power. More here: https://imgur.com/gallery/iIT5m

6. Brew a cuppa using loose tea instead of tea bags. Sadly, plastic can even be found in our tea bags. Many tea bags in the UK contain a thin layer of plastic that isn’t recyclable. But you can make the switch to loose leaf tea and make sure you next brew is plastic free.

7. Brush with a bamboo toothbrush. If you look in your bathroom cabinet, more likely than not, you are using a plastic toothbrush. Many of us throw them in the bin when the bristles become worn leading to more plastic in the environment. Whilst it is not possible to recycle toothbrushes, we can switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives which include toothbrushes made from bamboo.

 8. Purchase paper stemmed cotton buds. Some of you may have seen the heartbreaking image of a seahorse clinging to a plastic cotton bud for safety. Many supermarkets including Lidl, Tescos, Waitrose and Morrisons have phased out plastic stemmed cotton buds. But it is still possible to purchase them elsewhere. Scotland is looking to ban cotton buds. But in the meantime, buying paper stemmed ones can help end ocean plastics.

9. Wrap your sandwiches in bee or vegan wax. Cling film can be handy when packing sandwiches for your lunch. But it’s nearly impossible to recycle it. Substituting plastic cling film for bee or vegan wax paper can help with a plastic free lunch.

Thank you to the Oceans Team at Greenpeace for contributing this guest blog.  To find out more about Greenpeace’s campaign to defend our oceans and what you can do to get involved, see:https://greenpeace.org.uk/what-we-do/oceans/plastics/

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