Like many, I too was glued to my television on Sunday evening staring into the vast blue expanse that is our Blue Planet (II). This BBC created documentary, narrated by the influential Sir David Attenborough has not only given us vast insight into our oceans and their many –sometimes petrifying- inhabitants, but also raised a needed awareness around saving our seas and what we can do as humans to stop the clock on the devastation that pollutes 71% of the earth’s surface.
A shocking and deeply effective image still lingers in my mind, the footage of a mother whale carrying the carcass of her dead offspring for days on end, mourning its loss. Human beings killed that whale, like so many other species of oceanic creature that we continue to maim and damage on our quest for convenience. We are all the ultimate serial killers and I don’t know about you, but I am feeling guilty.
It is easy to sit here and spout out the things that we must do as a species to reverse the effects of the damage we have collectively already done, at the same time it can be inexplicably overwhelming to watch the damage and feel helpless and useless in this war on marine pollution. The reality is this:
This is how many pounds of trash enter the worlds’ oceans annually.
Of the debris floating in the ocean, 80% is estimated to be plastic.
It also happens to be the percentage of fish loss around Pacific Ocean islands by the end of the century as the acidic water warms and suffocates their kind
This is the number of marine mammals dying every year after ingesting plastic litter.
245 000 km2
Dead zones where marine life cannot survive cover 245 000 km2 globally.
SO WHAT CAN I DO?
Like myself, I am sure if you have been watching the series you may be asking yourself what you can do to make a difference. I felt immediately overwhelmed and wanted to be rid of all the plastic in my home, a little more ambitious than altogether possible. My changes may have little effect on their own but if sharing my changes with others instigates more change, we have a ‘change reaction’ and combined we are making an effort to reduce the amount of plastic going into our oceans as best we can. We are not perfect and cannot reverse a century of damage but we can give it our best try.
COTTON BUDS / Q TIPS
Ear, nose and throat specialists worldwide will tell you that the use of cotton buds to clean out your ears is not as beneficial as you think it might be. Stop using Q Tips and not only are you preserving the health of your ear, you are also doing your part to prevent more unnecessary plastic from entering the ocean. The plastic stems of cotton buds are said to make up 50% of the sewage related debris of UK beaches, time to take this little bag of pollution out of your shopping basket!
PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS
In October 2015, consumers were up in arms about having to pay 5p for a plastic bag with which to carry their shopping. Since this charge was introduced and reusable bags or bags for life became a handbag essential, plastic bag usage has dropped by 85%! That is a considerable change in the impact we collectively have on the environment and reducing the plastic pollution in our waters, look at what we have achieved! That said, I still slip up now and again when I have left my bag for life at home – Time to make more of a conscious effort to not touch a plastic packet at all, to stop adding to the plastic (jelly fish lookalike) ocean buffet.
It is almost unimaginable that in 2016, bottled water production in the UK stood at over 2.7 billion litres. The irony is that we drink bottled water because we don’t trust the water from the taps, the very same water we continue to pollute with our plastic use. Water bottles are not the only culprits as many more household items come in the dreaded plastic, including but not limited to bleach bottles; shampoo & conditioner; household cleaning products and hand soap. This equates to an estimated 35 million plastic bottles being used daily nationwide, of which 16 million are not recycled! That is 16 million plastic bottles each and every day coming from the UK alone just chomping at the bit to get into the ocean and be fatal fodder for a marine animal.
Focusing on water, it can be tricky to navigate as personally I don’t drink tap water due to the high lime scale and it’s effects on my tummy however that said I have always assumed that bottled water was the best solution. Bottled water isn’t the worst option but we should be swopping out plastic bottles for glass ones, reusable and recyclable. Alternatively, there is a wide range of water filters that can be purchased to reduce the lime scale in the water, helping it taste better and removing the need to purchase water.
I love drinking out of straws and I always have, especially after an expensive matte liquid lip application, which I go out of my way to preserve… but you know who doesn’t love straws? The turtle whose nose that bled as he was held down, while marine biologists pulled a 12cm plastic straw from his nasal cavity, just one of 50% of his kind who will ingest plastic matter in their lifetime. This is not okay, it never will be okay and who are we to put this kind of unnecessary plastic into the ocean for marine life to treat as something to snack on as their natural diet wastes away in the poisoned ocean. I will no longer buy straws, now I just need to figure out how to dispose of the ones I have.
Nothing better than a good exfoliating scrub but it is time to swop the plastic for sugar. In a vast number of toothpastes, body washes and face scrubs hide the silent killers, micro beads. Micro beads are non-biodegradable, they do NOT break down; they are not caught by filters as they are only a millimetre wide and they are completely made of plastic. Once in the ocean, micro beads are eaten unknowingly by fish or ingested by marine worms, which are in turn eaten by larger predators. These little plastic balls of poison are toxic to marine life and the integrity of the waters because they act like sponges, soaking up chemicals and pesticides en route to the ocean. Slowly but surely, brands and governments are getting onto the micro bead bandwagon but you can do your bit by avoiding any micro beaded product and opt for a natural alternative, like a Lush sea salt scrub for example.
While the continued war on plastics in our oceans remains daunting and almost impossible to fix, I have no doubt that small change adopted by only a few will make all of the difference, we need only be aware and educated.
If you haven’t watched Blue Planet II, I suggest you do. It is most certainly a conversation starter, the documentary has prompted me to make my own pledges to effect change.
I believe that this is a cause that we can all get behind, after all water is life.
Do you have any tips on what we can do collectively to reduce our use of plastic in day to day life?
For more information about sea conservation and to get involved, you can head on over to the Marine Conservation Society where you can learn more about keeping our oceans clean and even purchase ocean friendly Christmas gifts.
Until next time