Plastic is one of the most commonly used materials in the world. It’s virtually inescapable given its heavy use in food and consumer goods packaging, cosmetics, electronics, and medical supplies. Unfortunately, plastic is also one of the most environmentally destructive materials due to the fact that it takes decades and even centuries to decompose. As a result, a lot of plastic waste makes its way into our oceans where it wreaks havoc on aquatic life.
Given the issue of plastic pollution, many organizations have been quick to try and tackle the issue. Starbucks announced last year that it would eliminate the use of plastic straws in their restaurants by 2020. More recently, the European Union went even further and banned all single use plastic. The ban is meant to target products for which non-disposable alternatives are available. This means plastic cutlery and plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons are all banned as reported by DW News. In addition, the ban dictates that countries involved need to take measures to reduce the use of plastic cups and containers and collect 90% of plastic single drink bottles by 2025. DW News also reports that the legislation mandates that plastic producers will have to help cover the cost of cleaning up plastic waste.
Given the devastating effect of plastic on the environment, the ban is a much needed step in the right direction. According to Surfers Against Sewage, over 320 million tons of plastic waste was produced in 2016, a number that is set to double by 2034. Further, approximately 8 million pieces of plastic enters the ocean every day. All this plastic has a fatal effect on aquatic life and each year 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million birds die as a result of plastic pollution as reported by Surfers Against Sewage. The rising plastic levels in the ocean are only aided by the low recycling rate. According to National Geographic, less than a fifth of all plastic is recycled.
The new legislation enacted by the EU will help reduce plastic waste in our oceans but ultimately, we all have a responsibility to keep our world clean. You can help do your part by using reusable straws and bottles and avoiding disposable cutlery. Further, when you go grocery shopping, bring your own reusable bags. Everyday changes can make a big difference, especially if everybody takes part.