It is estimated that there are currently 150 million tonnes of plastic circulating our oceans. To put this into perspective, with the average car weighing two tonnes, this is equivalent to 75 million cars. It is only natural, with incredible statistics like this coming to the forefront of public knowledge, that governments have woken up to the fact that action needs to be taken to save our planet.
Recently, the UK has banned the use of micro-beads, along with introducing a minimum plastic bag charge of 5p, which has seen a drop of 86% in the use of plastic bags in major supermarkets. Michael Gove, former environmental secretary, boasted of ‘15 billion plastic bags being taken out of circulation’ since the 5p charge was launched. The successful decline in the consumption of this single-use plastic product has prompted the government to take action against further single-use items.
In May it was confirmed that, by April 2020, the distribution and sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds will be controlled. Although such small items, in total, the UK alone disposes of 6.8 billion straws, stirrers and cotton buds collectively per year, with many of these making their way into our waterways and oceans, subsequently affecting marine life.
A complete ban, however, has only been agreed on the sale and distribution of plastic drinks stirrers, of which the UK uses 316 million a year. The reasoning behind avoiding a complete ban on straws in particular arises from the necessary medical need some individuals have for plastic straws. It has therefore been proposed that straws should be available for purchase from pharmacies and available upon request in pubs, restaurants and cafes for those who have a need for the product.
Just as we have seen a drastic reduction in the use of carrier bags, the same expectation and hope is upheld for straws, stirrers and cotton buds. A number of corporations have demonstrated willing, already providing alternative non-plastic alternatives, but many are left questioning the slow progress of the elimination of single-use plastic and what further damage our planet will undertake before we reach the point of complete sustainability.
Surely, the eradication of unnecessary single-use plastic items is the only way to go. What are your thoughts?