Science

It’s time to say goodbye to plastic

The statement that there will be more waste plastic in the sea than fish by 2050 is shocking, but it’s a possible reality that the world must address. The disturbing claim came from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and whilst there may be no way to accurately measure fish abundance or plastic sea pollution globally; fish stocks are decreasing and plastic production and its pollution has exponentially grown since the 1960’s.

The reality of plastics in our oceans has caused catastrophic effects to the ecosystem and marine life. A published joint study conducted by North Highland College UHI’s Environmental Institute and RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science found that of the birds examined, 74% of them had ingested plastic. Another study focusing on deep sea creatures (2000m underwater) found that 48% of the sample animals had ingested micro plastics.

Schemes such as charging 5p for a single-use carrier bag were put in place to help combat this plastic pollution. Wales brought the legislation into force in October 2011 which resulted in a decline of the single use bags by 71%. England followed by introducing the law in October 2015 and have since seen a reduction of 80%. Even with a success from this scheme, plastics such as containers and straws still continue to litter the world’s oceans and beaches.

However a Dutch chain in Amsterdam is planning on tackling the “plastic problem” further. In February 2018, EkoPlaza launched the ‘world’s first plastic-free aisle’ where shoppers could choose more than 700 plastic free products, all available on one aisle. Ekoplaza chief executive, Erik Does said that “our customers are sick to death of products laden in layer after layer of thick plastic packaging”. The plastic packaging is now replaced by alternative biodegradable materials or more traditional recyclable materials such as glass, metal and cardboard.

In the UK, Iceland Supermarket is following suit, by aiming to eliminate all plastic packaging from their own brand products by 2023. The plastic will be replaced by paper or pulp trays and a paper based product will replace the film lid. However as more than 40% of plastic packaging stems from the grocery retail sector, the government are calling on other UK supermarkets to do more about plastic waste. Whilst there are no definite policies in place to tackle plastic in supermarkets, the plastic free aisle offers an innovative solution to an ever-increasing problem.

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