It is no secret that our plastic packaging addiction is one of the biggest epidemics plaguing marine wildlife. In fact, it is estimated that by 2050, plastic will outweigh the total amount of fish in the world's oceans.*
Why is plastic packaging bad for the environment you may ask? Thousands of seabirds, fish, sea turtles and other wildlife die each year after eating or getting caught in plastic. How many endangered species are affected by this? According to the Center for Biological Diversity, endangered wildlife such as the Hawaiian monk seal or the Pacific loggerhead sea turtle are among the nearly 700 species affected by the plastic problem’. In 2019, a whale washed up on the shore in the Philippines with 40kg of plastic bags in its stomach!
And to make matters worse, plastic production doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. The fossil fuel industry plans to increase plastic production by 40% over the next decade.* So how can we help protect endangered species from plastic packaging?
In honour of Endangered Species Day, on 20 May this year, we have put together a list of ways you can reduce the chance of your plastic packaging ending up in the bellies of our precious wildlife.
1. Limit single-use items
The best way to reduce the number of plastics ending up in our oceans is by limiting the amount of single-use plastic you buy. Bring your own reusable bags to the supermarket, choose fruit and veg not encased in plastic where possible, use a reusable water bottle, or coffee cup, plan ahead and bring your own lunch to work instead of resorting to a meal deal or a takeaway. If you are buying out, look for options like the new partnership between Burger King UK and Loop who are trialing reusable packaging, instead of single-use, for a more circular economy approach.
There are endless ways in which we can reduce our plastic waste. Going zero waste isn’t easy, but a good way to start is by taking small steps in areas of your life where you think you can have the most impact.
2. Reuse items when you can
When plastic is unavoidable, take time to figure out how you can reuse the item. Reuse takeaway containers for your leftovers, or create a mini-greenhouse for seedlings. Reuse plastic bottles to propagate your cuttings or create DIY self-watering systems for your plants.
Get creative with your items and challenge yourself to reuse your plastic item at least once before disposing of it.
3. Recycle plastic responsibly
When your item has finally come to the end of its use, make sure you recycle it where you can, to give it a second life. Not sure how to recycle plastic packaging properly? Brush up on your recycling knowledge with our blog, 8 Common Recycling Mistakes.
Why is it important to recycle responsibly? Many types of plastic cannot be collected through your local council and will end up in landfill or in our oceans. This is where Zero Waste Box™ can come in handy!
We offer recycling boxes such as our Plastic Packaging or our Crisps, Snacks and Sweets Packaging Zero Waste Boxes in order to dispose of your plastic in the most responsible way. When buying a Zero Waste Box you can be confident that your plastic packaging will not end up in landfill, but will instead be converted into recycled plastic products.
4. Change your laundry habits to reduce microplastics
Another way plastic makes its way into our oceans in the form of microplastics. 35% of all microplastics produced are from synthetic textiles**. These make their way into the ocean via our laundry machines. Your plumbing sends the wastewater from your washing machine to a wastewater treatment plant. These fibres, too small for traditional filters, are discharged with treated wastewater, eventually finding their way into our oceans. Consider only washing your really dirty clothes, decreasing temperature, filling the machine with a larger load, reducing wash time, and hanging up your clothes to dry if you can. Alternatively you can also buy a specialised filter or a microfiber catching laundry bag to substantially reduce your clothing's impact on ocean plastic.
Not only will these practices help reduce the amount of plastic ending up in our oceans, but they will also help decrease your energy and water consumption!
5. Donate to or participate in ocean cleanups
The most direct way you can help reduce plastic pollution affecting endangered marine wildlife is by participating in waterway cleanups. Find an organisation to contribute to here. Don’t live by a beach or water source? You can still do your bit! Donate to organisations like the Terracycle Global Foundation, who actively remove plastic packaging from rivers and canals before it can reach the ocean. Or simply pick up litter when you see it on the street. Rubbish not disposed of in a bin has a higher chance of ending up in our drains and making its way into our oceans.
6. Be a ‘change-maker’ in your community
As important as it is to change individual behaviours, mass change can only happen when it is also supported by businesses, as well as local, national and international legislation. In March 2022, 175 nations formally agreed to begin writing a UN plastic treaty to help fight plastic pollution globally, with the goal of having a legally binding agreement by 2024. Follow, support and promote organisations devoted to reducing plastic pollution in your area.
In what ways are you going to reduce your plastic consumption in order to help clean our oceans and protect endangered species?
Tell us in the comments below!
- *Ocean Plastics Pollution, Center for Biological Diversity
- **Your Laundry Sheds Harmful Microfibers. Here’s What You Can Do About It, New York Times Wirecutter
- 7 Solutions To Ocean Plastic Pollution, The Ocean Society
- UN Plastic Pollution Treaty Under Development, The Ocean Society