Problem Plastic

The scourge of plastic is something often seen in a grander scale on the news; the devastating ‘plastic islands’ created in the oceans or the heartbreaking images of endangered wildlife snared by single use items. Only more recently have I started looking a bit closer to home, and the impact it has on us and our local environment, on our streets, in our parks and in our spaces for nature.

This series of photos shows a Coot who had pulled up a plastic bag from a reed bed, and was pecking and ultimately trying to eat it. This was taken at the Wetlands Nature Reserve in Cardiff. It broke me.

The Problem with Plastic

Let’s start from the top for those of us who haven’t really given it much thought before. The average single use plastic item such as a bottle takes around 450 years to fragment in the marine environment. It doesn’t decompose, like organic materials, but turns into microscopic pieces which float in the ocean and are eaten by creatures lower in the food chain. These creatures are then eaten in large quantities by those higher in the food chain, which causes a build up in those creatures, such as sharks, sea birds, and humans.

You heard right, humans. Studies have shown 1 in 3 fish caught for our consumption contains plastics which can contain harmful chemicals. Now we should consider the amount of fish apex sea predators are eating, and the amount of plastic that they will be consuming alongside us. We’re all in this together.

In the UK we are home to a huge variety of marine life, including Basking Sharks, Grey Seals, Dolphins, Gannets, Harbour Porpoises, Puffins and even Orcas. Our litter is affecting our wildlife. This isn’t happening on the other side of the world. We can’t distance ourselves from it. It’s here, on our doorsteps, and it’s killing our neighbours.

Be Part of the Change

There are ways in which we can lessen the problem on a local scale.

Firstly we can create less plastic waste, by consuming less products which use single waste plastics. If we vote with our wallets, the options for this will increase. If you’re unable to get by without certain items, try buying in bulk. Try and become active in requesting for items to come in recyclable packaging. Local schemes such as Do You Suck Cardiff help to push local businesses to ban single use plastics, and are definitely worth supporting. And always bring your own bag and re-usable coffee cup!

We can also become more involved with community projects such as litter picks. A quick google search will match you up with local picks and beach cleans, if you’re based in Wales then have a look at Keep Wales Tidy to point you in the direction of local events. I took part in the Keep Tremorfa Tidy pick at my local park, it’s a great way of meeting the community and if you’re not into that, you can take your headphones and spend a few hours in the park listening to podcasts and helping the environment – bonus!

Litter Picking in Cardiff, photo from Keep Wales Tidy
Litter Picking in Cardiff, photo from Keep Wales Tidy

It also comes as no surprise to anyone that we see items thrown away because we simply can’t be bothered to fix or alter them. If we buy less, we have less impact on the environment. There are plenty of courses online and in the real world to help you find ways to make the most of what you own – and also saving you money! In Cardiff, Green City host a plethora of courses, and YouTube has a wealth of online content from anything from woodwork to gardening to fixing your clothes.

Final Note

Overall, my goal in regards to my relationship with plastic is to just become more aware of our impact on the environment. For a long time we’ve become blind to it’s impact. But the more we become aware of it locally, the bigger the impact will be in the long term. So pick those bits of rubbish up in your local nature reserve. Take your reusable coffee cup. Be part of the change!

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