Plastic Pollution

Since the 1950’s human beings have produced more than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic and 6.3 billion metric tons of it has been discarded, becoming plastic waste – and one way or another we’re still living with nearly all of it. Only about 30% of plastic ever produced is still in use – the rest has been disposed of in one of three ways: 79% accumulated in landfills and the environment 12% incinerated 9% recycled

Read the illustrated story of where all that plastic has gone

If you watched Blue Planet II, or even if you didn’t, you probably know by now that a lot of plastic has ended up in our oceans and it’s slowly killing our sea creatures, fish and birds.

If you’re careful to recycle all the plastic you can you might wonder why this is happening. Perhaps most other people are too careless to recycle and there are too many litterbugs about. The philosophy of the Greener Godalming group is that we are all on a journey, both of understanding what problems our modern way of life is causing and also of putting more sustainable changes into practice. We all have different abilities and circumstances, so we won’t all be able to do the same things. While a few people may throw plastic bags and bottles away without thinking, the truth is that we are producing far more plastic than we can recycle. Moreover, plastic degrades so it has to be down- cycled rather than truly recycled. Much of the plastic we use degrades so much that local councils don’t collect it for recycling.

Even if all the plastic could be put somewhere that kept wildlife safe from it, the amount in single-use plastic around the world is also making Climate Change happen faster.

In the recent three part BBC documentary War on Plastic, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall discovered that

“Every single minute of every single day a truckload of plastic is finding its way into the world’s oceans – and once it’s there it sticks around for hundreds of years,”

The Huffington post reports that

In the documentary, we hear about a Greenpeace investigation which discovered that household recycling is not always being dealt with properly, and is even finding its way to illegal dumps in Malaysia.

Visiting one site, which Hugh describes as a “dystopian nightmare”, he finds mountains of recycling that’s come straight from our homes – with Sainsbury’s, Tesco, M&S, Flora, Celebrations, Milky Way, Asda and Aldi branding clearly visible. There are also council recycling bags from Wales, Essex and Milton Keynes – and the volume of plastic waste is predicted to increase three fold, Hugh says.

Much of the disposable plastic we use isn’t necessary. The plastic industry is part of the fossil fuel industry. Persuading us we need plastic bags, bottles, pots and punnets etc is a way to make money for them, but it’s trashing our beautiful planet and especially our marvellous and mysterious oceans.

Plastic is fantastic for many things but plastic becomes a problem when it’s made to be thrown away after just one use. Supermarkets and manufacturers don’t seem to be in a hurry to ditch disposable plastic, but you and I can start a journey to do just that.

Check out our guide to ditching disposable plastic

July has been designated the month to go plastic free – or to try and avoid as much disposable plastic as possible. Now seems the ideal time to explore doing just that and for starting another important journey – that of Godalming becoming a Plastic Free Community.


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