Twelve years ago,
oceanographer Captain Charlie Moore was skippering his yacht the
Alguita in the North Pacific. He sailed into a mass of floating
plastic rubbish which took him and his crew a week to cross.
This floating rubbish dump is now called the Great Pacific
Garbage Patch and doubles the size of the USA.
The United Nations says there
are now 18,000 pieces of plastic in every square kilometre of
sea everywhere in the world. A walk along any beach will give
you some idea of the seriousness of plastic pollution.
The trouble is, when we throw
out plastic with the trash, the plastic doesn’t go away. Plastic
does not biodegrade. It photo degrades into smaller and smaller
particles which then enter the food chain. Plastics contain
cancer-causing chemicals such as vinyl chloride which travel
along the food chain in increasing concentrations and end up in
our fish and chips, along with hormone disruptors such as
Scientists try to tell us
that we are killing ourselves as well as other animals.
At least 200 species are, as
I speak, being killed by plastic. Whales, dolphins, turtles and
albatross confuse floating plastic, especially shopping bags and
six pack rings, with jellyfish. A dead Minke whale, washed up on
a Normandy beach, was found to have eaten plastic bags from
supermarkets and had died a dreadful death.
8% of all the world’s oil
production is for plastic. According to the United States
Environmental Protection Agency, companies manufacture 5 billion
plastic bags a year. Of all the plastic produced annually, half
is for packaging which gets thrown out with the trash a few
minutes after purchase. And 10% of all rubbish is plastic bags
which take from 400 to 1000 years to degrade. Less than one per
cent of plastic bags are recycled and only 4% of all other
plastic waste, the reason being it is simply too expensive to
The same lobbies that work
against electric vehicles and renewable energies, put
governments under pressure not to act against plastic pollution.
This is because plastic represents 8% of all the world’s oil
production. These lobbies, acting on behalf of oil companies,
represent an unsustainable approach to profit. To paraphrase the
Cree Indian prophecy, only when we have wiped everything out
will we realise that money cannot be eaten.
Some countries have rebelled
and banned plastic bags. And the first was brave Bangladesh.
Then China took the same decision and, according to CNN Asia,
saves itself 37 million barrels of oil a year. Botswana, Canada,
Israel, Kenya, Rwanda, Singapore and South Africa have also
banned plastic bags. Notice how many of the world’s richest
countries are not on this list. It’s an absolute disgrace.
Alright, then. If we can’t
use plastic bags, how do we carry home the shopping? Take a back
pack or a folding shopping trolley. Change supermarket to one
that provides biodegradable bags, made from potato starch for
example. Use consumer power.
What I need to find now, is a
supermarket that sells biodegradable bin liners, otherwise I
still end up using plastic. I recently spent a week in New
Zealand on my honeymoon and saw that everyone was using special
paper bin liners. I wish we did something similar here in
Think globally, act locally.
A small Australian town is now one step ahead of the rest of the
world. The inhabitants of Bundanoon in New South Wales have
banned plastic bottles from the town. We need to follow their
example and eliminate plastic from our lives, take care of the
earth and vote for people we think will do the same.