Plastic in the ocean reaches crisis levels
Amidst political developments across the world over the last twelve months, it’s not surprising that other global issues have fallen out of the spotlight in the world’s media coverage. With Donald Trump, Brexit and the rise of far-right populists such as Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen there has been much to discuss by prominent commentators that doesn’t involve environmental matters. Thankfully the grim predictability of one of the aforementioned making headlines by saying or doing something stupid has allowed more pressing issues to resurface and with it, environmental crisis has surfaced once more.
Sky recently launched its Ocean Rescue scheme, which places itself squarely at the forefront of the battle to clean up our oceans. On its website it declares that ‘we simply cannot afford for our oceans and seas to reach a critical tipping point. Every minute, the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of plastic goes in to our oceans, it never decomposes and will remain there forever. If nothing changes, by 2050 all the plastic in the ocean could weigh more than all the fish.’
Now the I newspaper has taken the story up with a front page on its Wednesday 15th March edition reading ‘Britain’s plastic bottle addiction’. Inside the story tells stark and shocking statistics not only about Britain’s but the world’s consumption of single use plastic and how it finds its way in our oceans. The newspaper reports on a new survey by Greenpeace UK which sheds light on to the issues.
Some of the most shocking findings in the survey include:
· Of the six big drinks companies surveyed, five sell a combined total of over two million tonnes of plastic bottles each year – the same weight as over 10,000 blue whales.
· The largest brand Coca-Cola refused to disclose the size of its plastic footprint, making the actual total figure much higher.
· When combined with plastic packaging used by the companies, the total figure rises to a startling 3.6 million tonnes a year (still excluding Coca-Cola).
· The six companies use a combined average of just 6.6% recycled plastic in their bottles, despite producing fully recyclable bottles and placing the responsibility on their customers to recycle.
· None of the companies surveyed have commitments, targets or timelines to reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles they use.
· A third of the companies surveyed currently have no global targets to increase their use of recycled content in their plastic bottles, and none are aiming for 100% recycled content in an ambitious timeframe.
· Four out of the top six companies surveyed do not consider the impact of plastic bottles on oceans in their product design and development processes.
· Over the last ten years, the soft drinks industry has been consistently decreasing their use of refillable bottles, instead switching to yet more single-use plastic.
· Two-thirds of the soft drinks companies surveyed have a global policy opposing the introduction of deposit return schemes on drinks containers, which have boosted recycling and collection rates to over 80% across the world, and more than 98% in Germany.
There are now hopes by prominent environmentalists that the cause could hit the mainstream and be taken as seriously by the government as the plastic bags issue which saw a 5p charge introduced across the UK last year with great success. As the globe and the developed world face up to new and growing challenges there should be no expense or effort spared in the pursuit of a healthier and cleaner environment for our children.