Policy Manager, City to Sea
Plastic pollution in our oceans is a devastating environmental crisis. This is only going to worsen unless we turn away from single-use plastics and adopt the reuse and refill revolution.
One recent study estimated there are now 171 trillion plastic particles in our oceans — an ‘unprecedented’ level. A separate Eunomia study found that 12 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean each year.
Impact of the plastic crisis in oceans
The impact cannot be underestimated. Plastic pollution in the ocean has a devastating impact on marine life, ecosystems and human health. From entangling or suffocating animals, blocking their digestive systems and causing starvation — to posing a threat to our food chain. One study estimated that we eat an average of one credit card of plastic a week.
Recycling won’t stop plastic pollution
Recycling is often touted as the solution. This is especially true for companies whose shareholder value relies on irresponsible levels of single-use plastic production.
Coca-Cola, for example, has pledged to capture and recycle every bottle they produce, using this as a moral justification for the proliferation of a business model that pumps out over 200,000 single-use bottles every minute.
We can’t recycle out of this crisis. To start to address the flood of single-use plastics, we need to, firstly, reduce single-use plastics — and secondly, demand packaging alternatives. The most obvious is reusable packaging.
One study estimated that we eat an average of one credit card of plastic a week.
Reuse and refill packaging solutions
Take, for instance, single-use coffee cups. We use a few billion single-use coffee cups in the UK every year. A tiny fraction is recycled, but most end up in landfills — or as litter. However, there are alternatives.
In Bristol, for example, environmental charity City to Sea is launching a returnable cup scheme in the UK. It will mark this year’s World Refill Day (16th June). Customers will be able to pick up a reusable cup from dozens of outlets across the city and return it to any participating store. This will be facilitated through the award-winning Refill app.
Reuse and refill packaging solutions are growing. They offer our best chance of stemming this crisis flooding our oceans with plastics.