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Have we become desensitised to the danger of plastic pollution?



I was sickened to read this week that a whale was beached dead with 40 kilos of plastic waste in its stomach. Another piece of evidence that demonstrates how plastic waste is destroying the natural (and human) environments. What more do we need to know before something changes?

Like climate change, plastic pollution is so huge, so ubiquitous and makes so many headlines, the problem becomes seemingly insurmountable. It so disturbing and few of us fully understand our individual impact or how we can affect any change that we risk just mentally blocking it off. I have thought a lot about this headline on the BBC this week and it sparked quite the debate in the Ditto office. 'What more can we say to drive home the damage plastic pollution is doing to our environment, our wildlife and future generations?' My initial reaction was to question whether people get fed-up with me bleating on about plastics pollution? Are we becoming desensitised? Does this play into the hands of the plastic polluters?

At times I despair. But if we despair and give up then all is really lost. Humanity has shown time and time again that fighting for justice can bring justice. In this case environmental justice. We need to fight. So I have compiled five things you can do to make a real difference.   

1. Shop Responsibly. When you see fresh food wrapped in plastic, avoid it and purchase loose fruit or veg. Strip off the plastic and hand it back to the store manager.  Bread doesn’t need a plastic bag, water doesn’t need a plastic bottle, coffee doesn’t need a throw-away plastic cup. 

2. Go 'plastic free' at home. Invest in a soda stream and stop purchasing bottled water. Buy a reusable water bottle and coffee cup. Research into the different types of recycling your local council offers and separate out your waste, peeling off labels and cleaning out recyclable containers. 

3. Visit the DEFRA website and fill in the recent consultations on plastic https://consult.defra.gov.uk/environmental-quality/plastic-packaging-tax-condensed-consultation/. Tell DEFRA and the Treasury that you want a whopping great plastic tax on all plastic packaging to increase its price and make other materials relatively cheaper. We can petition the Government to use this tax to pay for collections and recycling.

4. Back the call of MPs to ban the exports of plastic waste to developing countries. Their motion can be read here https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/52495/plastic-waste-exports-no-2. Send an email to your MP telling him or her to back this motion and make it law. It is disgraceful that plastic waste is exported from this country to be dumped in developing countries. Maybe it was your last bottle of Coca Cola that was in that whale’s stomach. Stop the exporting now.

5. If there is a park or beach clean-up being organised near you, take part in it and take your kids/family along with you. Plenty of communities are organising clean ups to take plastic out of the environment. It is shocking we have to do this, but let's stop the blight near where we live.

To find where clean ups are taking place visit, https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lists/pitch-in-with-a-beach-clean  or https://www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch/events

Finally,  don’t despair, we can leave the world in a better place than we found it, but we have no time to lose.