Monday, 7 April 2008

Lethal plastic

It saddens me that our massive amounts of plastic waste are harming and killing so many animals. But it's hard to see how the waste can be significantly reduced.

Plastic products like beach toys, toothbrushes and used condoms are suffocating and poisoning birds and sea creatures and clogging their intestines.

The deaths and injuries often happen far from land or built-up areas so we're blissfully unaware of what's happening unless we read about it.

Some 250 species are affected from albatrosses to whales, many of them simply unable to distinguish between plastic and bona fide food.

It's horrible to think that the empty shampoo bottle I'm casually discarding could end up slaughtering some unsuspecting turtle or seal, but what can I do?

We use so many plastic-based products and so much plastic packaging that there's not much scope for cutting down.

I try not to buy plastic items unless I have to. I try to avoid things with ludicrous amounts of wrapping. I refuse plastic bags wherever possible. I do my best to recycle. But that's a drop in a bucket compared to what's needed.

The tide of waste is swollen by our phenomenal consumption levels and our insatiable desire for new gadgets, make-overs and 101 items that come swaddled in plastic.

But how many people are prepared to say, okay, I'm happy with what I've got, I don't really need to replace it or update it? We're all tempted by fashion and other people's enthusiasms to add to our Most Wanted list.

Meanwhile yet another innocent creature is fighting for its life, not knowing what it is that's stopping it breathing or flying or eating. And unlike us, it can't just dial 999.

It's reported that 2000 police officers were protecting the Olympic torch relay from pro-Tibet protests as it travelled through London from Wembley to Greenwich yesterday. Why do we need a symbolic Olympic torch or a torch relay anyway? Isn't the Olympics enough?

In fact the Olympic torch relay was started by the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany. It was an attempt to turn the Games into a glorification of the Third Reich by using 3000 Aryan (i.e. non-Jewish) relay runners. In other words the relay has thoroughly despicable origins.


Baino said...

Plastic bags and the six pack binders are deadly to penguins and seals who get them entwined around their necks when they're young or ingest them. We're fighting a green campaign here to banish the extruded plastic shopping bag and I have to say, it's working in my neighbourhood. I use fabric bags to shop and it's incredible the scowls that are directed towards those who ask for plastic bags. Nick you can do something. . .enlist in Ian Keirnans Clean Up the World campaign. Register and get your community involved. It does great good and also raises awareness.

Nick said...

One of Aussie's most successful exports? And now in 122 countries? Sounds brilliant. Couldn't trace any Northern Ireland input but will keep searching. Or even start something here! I'm sure to remember the date - Jenny's birthday is that weekend!

Dave Hampton said...

It gets worse: The circulating ocean currents tend to concentrate the floating debris into their calm centers. Recently, articles have highlighted the North Pacific Gyre, where plastic has accumulated to form a dump the size of Texas. Look at Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch on Wikipedia or BBC for details. I don't know how that will ever get cleaned up...people just don't care.

Nick said...

Dave, I've seen several stories about the floating plastic Texas now (it was originally said to be the size of the USA but that's been amended!). As you say, how will it ever get cleaned up? And I wonder how many sea creatures have been maimed or killed by it?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

When we lived in San Diego, we saw dead seals on the beach all the time. It was heartbreaking.

I knew an older woman who grew up in London during World War II and she told me that her family motto was:

"Make do, do over or do without."

It seems like excellent advice now for all of us.

Nick said...

Heart, that's fine advice. I remember how thrifty everyone was when I was young, mending and adjusting things rather than chucking them out and replacing them. Whoever uses the word thrifty nowadays?

Wisewebwoman said...

What a disposable society we have become, Nick, very disheartening. The packaging drives me nuts and I am so vocal about it. I try and shop bulk for the flour, etc and bring my own containers. But it's a drop in the sea of plastic (twice the size of Texas now and still growing). I think the end of oil will also signal the end of this plastic nightmare - all petroleum based as we know.
This is what it will take to bring us to our knees.

Nick said...

www - Yes, even our most strenuous efforts to avoid plastic make only a small dent in the problem. As you say, we'll only come to our senses when oil actually runs out.

Anonymous said...

@Baino- Thanks for that link! Makes excellent coastcare blog fodder :)

I was at a green-coast seminar last year in Wales and heard about an environmental marine initiative called The Green Blue.

The speaker had pretty devastating pictures, he held up a tupperware box full of stuff just one cormorant had eaten. See? There are people that care out there, it'll be okay.

Nick said...

K8, that link looks like a very worthwhile organisation. What a horrible end for the poor cormorant. How many other cormorants are about to suffer the same fate?