Sir David Attenborough brought the horrific impact of plastic pollution to the world’s attention through the iconic series Blue Planet II earlier this year. David called for the world to cutback on its use of plastic in order to protect our oceans. He spoke with gentleness but there was no mistaking his urgency.
Since then you will have no doubt seen the harrowing videos all over social media of marine animals entangled in fishing lines and stomachs being cut open to expose the contents.
The statistics on plastic pollution in the ocean stop you in your tracks. The one that really grabbed me was “Unless we take action, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.”
It is one thing watching and reading about plastic pollution online. It is another to go to the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge to learn directly from the experts.
Attending the Plastics In The Ocean Conference, we gained information and perspectives on the situation that are impossible to get from the media alone.
Professor Dame Jane Francis opened the conference with a powerful statement.
“When plastic is thrown away – where is ‘away’? Away can be as far as Antarctica.”
We were presented with hard-hitting facts, one after the other:
• 136 species are affected by entanglement – including 79% of seals and 86% of sea turtles.
• More than 250 species have plastic in their stomachs, including 98% of North Sea gulls.
• European shellfish consumers ingest around 11,000 pieces of microplastic per year.
• Nowhere is ‘safe’ from the devastating effects of plastic. 94% of debris on beaches in
Antarctica is plastic, including Styrofoam, fishing equipment and packaging items.
There is no doubt about it. There is a serious issue with plastic. Plastic loiters as a reminder of the consequences of our consumption.
Below is a summary of the key learnings on plastic:
We have 60 years of behaviour to change. It struck me that we need experts in behaviour change and strong leadership on this – people to step up to actively lead the way. The focus should be on social and business behaviour, not new technologies.
It is time to rethink our relationship with plastic; re-educating people to use plastic responsibly.
Refuse. Reuse. Recycle.
We need to think about the end-of-life of a product. When designing products, design for life AND the end-of-life to minimise the accumulation of plastic waste.
The aim isn’t for a plastic free aisle. We don’t want to get rid of plastics entirely. Why? Because some plastic products have a lower carbon footprint than the previous alternatives. This takes some getting your head around. It certainly blew our minds… Watch out for a separate article on this.
Single-use plastics need to be banned.
The problem in the Developing World arises from the lack of waste management systems and open dump sites.
The problem in the Developed World arises from careless or irresponsible disposal of packaging used for food and drink on the go and flushing of items not designed to be flushed and from litter left on our beaches.
It was highlighted that people are working in silos and that we are not collecting the best ideas from around the world.
There is the need to move to a more circular system (not linear); a circular economy where plastic is valued and never pollutes the environment.
The “time is now. We need to act. We don’t want to waste the opportunity whilst the world is listening.”
The experts are all in agreement there is an issue but not in agreement on the solutions.
The conference packed a punch and certainly gave us food for thought; lots of information to process, things to research, questions to ask.
What struck me was the comment about needing to act now. The time is now and the world is listening.
At Conversations For Change we are all about taking action and making a difference. Plastic pollution is high on our agenda; we aim to restore and sustain the ocean’s natural ecosystems and raise awareness on issues such as plastic in the oceans, sea level change, ocean acidity, overfishing, coral bleaching, industry drilling and spillages.
There is much talk about plastic in the ocean and many wondering ‘what can I do?’
We are organising a ½ day seminar for you to learn the simple things you can do to go plastic free.
Check out our events page to find a seminar near you.