But, why do you care so much? A question we love to hear when we are passionate about something. Why do you care what happens on the other side of the globe? Why do you care about a particular news story? Why do you care, that wont affect you? Then there’s my favourite, why do you care so much about the environment?
Now, I’m no scientist but when rock samples on Earth date back as far as 4.6 billion years, that makes me think Earth has been around a pretty long time. Just under 200,000 years ago, a species called ‘homo sapiens’ were first recorded on Earth (humans). We spent a great deal of our time as hunter-gatherers, pottering around and doing whatever necessary to survive (probably, I don’t know, I wasn’t there). About 5,500 years ago we started to make things out of copper and tin to replace stone. This would no doubt have made things lighter and easier to build. But were we satisfied, did we stop there, of course we didn’t. In the 1900’s we were in the early stages of producing a little something called plastic. 30 years later the plastic industry boomed and it was extremely cost efficient and easy to manufacture this material. By the 70s, plastic was, and still is, the most used type of material worldwide. In the UK alone we buy and use 275,000 tones of plastic a year, my rough calculations equate that to about the same weight as 55,000 adult elephants, roughly.
Now I’m going to talk about the scariest two words regarding plastic, single use. But why do these words make me cringe? Single use is great, right? I can go out and buy this bottle of water super cheap and then just discard it and buy another later? And those plastic straws make my drink taste 100x better for 2 minutes or so, and don’t get me started on paying 5 pence for a plastic bag, how else am I going to carry my new backpack to my car 100 yards away?! (working in a shop, I’d estimate 7 out of 10 people would like their new bag in a bag to make it easier to carry the…bag). But what we don’t realise is that in our little country alone, we dispose of around 15 million single use bottles daily. Daily! Then, the following day we will dispose of another 15 million, rinse and repeat.
The National Geographic estimate that by 2050 (32 years from now, a blink in Earth’s 4.6 billion years), the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by weight. So next time you reach for that cute, small plastic soy sauce fish to squeeze over your sushi, just think. Where will my waste go? Unfortunately, the likely answer is the ocean. ‘But I recycle, I’m doing my bit!’ Correct. Recycling is absolutely a better option than simply throwing an item away and it is a great place to start. However, it is a terrible place to stop. In the UK, our recycling plants sort through millions of tons of recycled materials annually, but what happens when we produce too much? A great deal of our waste is shipped overseas, and although the environmental impact is minimised by shipping recycling to countries who purchase and utilise it such as China, it is still baffling that we cannot cope with the amount of waste we produce.
Surely my one plastic bag wont make a difference, why should I bother? If you feel this way, it’s possible a few million other people think the same. Presto! Your one plastic bag turns into a few million ‘harmless’ plastic bags. Now, I’m by no means perfect. I am not zero waste (yet) but I do try to make the conscious effort to minimise the amount of plastic I bring into my life. And its so easy! By simply changing your habits and purchasing reusables of the items you use most, you are helping our planet breathe and being the best kind of person! If you can’t function without coffee, grab yourself a reusable coffee cup, most coffee shops offer at least 10% off when you use your own (I’m a student, I need to utilise every discount available!). Don’t buy into the World’s biggest scam, bottled water. Buy a reusable, a lot of places are more than happy to fill your bottle free of charge (BYOB, you’ll be simultaneously saving money and the environment while feeling like the champion eco-warrior that you are!). Always carry a reusable shopping bag, invest in a travelling cutlery set, use sustainable food wrap, say no to that convenient straw placed in your drink because convenience at the expense of the planet isn’t really convenient at all!
So when you go to make your next plastic based purchase or you opt for the single use item ask yourself, at what cost? Now finally, to answer your question ‘why do I care so much?’ I say, why don’t you?