During our little break in the summer holidays, whilst on the Isle of Wight, like many, we were drawn to the beach - there is nothing like a bracing walk, breathing in lungs full of sea air, then finding a nice little spot to sit down and listen to the waves crashing up the beach!
However on our little trip to the beach, Brook Bay on the IOW, our bracing walk turned into a litter pick …..
In our already hectic lives, we all too often find ourselves rushing around, trying to keep the many plates of modern life spinning - so, as consumers we are generally looking for convenience, we don’t have time to stop and think about why our ‘get the day started’ Cappuccino always comes served with a plastic lid, or think about how our take out lunch is packaged or why our supermarket fruit and veg is always perfectly displayed behind a veil of see through plastic…
The world is also jam packed full of brands, all competing for our attention, all desperately trying to get us to buy THEIR product and these companies generally do this by luring us in with their sleek packaging…..
The type of packaging that Manufacturers insist on using, is the type that is easy and cheap to make to help keep their profit margins high!
Crisp packets for example, are non recyclable (foil plastic hybrid) and also highly persistent once in the marine environment!
Could crisps not come in paper that was 100% biodegradable so if (when) some of that packaging ends up in the environment, it can break down and be harmless?
A drive for plastic free aisles in UK supermarkets is truly welcome, as the only winner on plastic covered vegetables, is the supermarket! They spend 5p on a plastic container, place fruit or vegetables in it, then charge you the consumer a £1 more for the product - value add, nice easy profit - and we play to it because we are all too busy and it’s easier/faster to pick up 4 apples in a plastic container, rather than have to pick 4 apples up individually. Also, these products are carefully placed in high traffic, optimum eye line areas, so that you are more likely to pick them up - supermarket psychology (a whole other can of worms)
Perfectly sized fruit and vegetables in single use plastic are only about profit margins and not about good products or sustainable practices.
Back to Brook Bay, we did our best to pick up as many items as we could carry off the beach and took pictures as we came across them. The UK products were either washed down river, washed up from other coastal areas or left by visitors to this particular beach.
Wave and UV action will eventually break these items down ( taking up to 450 years for a plastic bottle ) but all that means is that they become smaller micro plastics that get into the food chain - just because you can’t see it any more doesn't mean it isn't there! And doing huge damage!
The blue bottle pictured here, found at Totland beach, this time on the North (Solent) side of the Island, had clearly been in the water a very, very long time. Weed and crustacean growth, as well as it being partially broken down, shows a bottle which is part way though becoming entirely micro plastic.
Let's be clear, plastic is not the enemy, it’s a useful manufacturing material that when used responsibly can provide long life products that at the end of their life can be recycled and used again.
It's single use, throw away plastic that's the problem and in our busy lives we have developed throw away culture - because once we can’t see it anymore, it no longer is a problem to us ….. this is part of the wider issue and we as a planet need to come together to deal with this before we destroy our environment & ourselves!
Anything with a short use - like a straw for example with an average use time of 12 seconds before being thrown away or this plastic Costa Coffee lid we found - shouldn't it be made of an entirely biodegradable material? Paper perhaps?
Only we can start to force the change with the choices that we make and I know it’s hard to when we are all so busy.
So, start small - if you like to indulge yourself in a take out coffee, rather than use a throw away cup that is only promoting the brand, treat yourself to a re-usable thermal cup, but get one in your favourite colour or with a design that you love so that when you go get your caffeine kick, it makes you smile! You’ll also get a little kick out of knowing you’ve made a little step in helping to change the planet too!
Or when you are at the supermarket - don’t play their game, play your own - do you really need a bumper plastic bag of apples or a full plastic punnet of mushrooms? Pick your own and you’ll only pick as many as you need - because lets face it, how many of us end up throwing away excess food that has gone off, all because we’ve been conveniently sold it in bulk, all whilst being charged for the privilege of doing so.
Next time you are out walking, whether it be on a beach, in the countryside, or in a major city - if you see litter, pick up what you can and dispose of it but take pictures of where you find it, we will soon have a link you can post the pictures to with the location of what you find - perhaps together we can start to educate the big brands that their packaging persisting in the environment is not okay and they need to do something about it.
Conor & Sarah x