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Plastic use – how far have we come?

Jo Macdonald takes a look at the progress we’ve made with this notorious material and reveals how much more needs to be done

Before discussing the issues with plastic waste, it’s worth noting that plastic is a useful substance, which most of us use daily in some capacity. It’s found in everything from clothing to crisp packets, bottles to buckets and coffee cups. It’s very popular because there are many types and it can be moulded into all shapes, colours and sizes. The problem with plastic arises when we throw it away, because most plastic is not biodegradable. It won’t rot like paper or food so it hangs around in the environment for hundreds of years. It’s causing a catastrophe for our planet and according to Greenpeace (greenpeace.org.uk) ‘Our planet now faces a biodiversity and climate emergency’. Single-use items is one of the biggest parts of the plastic issue – that’s plastic that is utilised for a few moments, but stays on the planet for at least several hundred years, such as plastic bags, nappies, bottles, cutlery and take-away cups.

A population of plastic

Over 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced globally every year and over 50 per cent of this is for single-use purposes (plasticoceans.org). More than 8 million tonnes are dumped into our oceans every year and over 90 per cent of all seabirds have plastic pieces in their stomachs. Experts believe that by 2050, the weight of plastic in the ocean will be greater than the weight of fish in the ocean. A small 2018 study also estimated that more than 50 per cent of the world’s population might have microplastics in their stools (theguardian.com) which is largely due to the prevalence of plastic in the food chain including fish, food wrapped in plastic and plastic water bottles.

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About Be Kind

Hello, In 2016, I was fortunate enough to spend a year living in Australia. I fell in love with the country – its breathtaking beaches, great coffee, perfect weather, unusual creatures and outdoors lifestyle instantly won me over – what’s not to love? Day after day we pulled our campervan up to what seemed like undiscovered bays; we walked remote bush hikes and swam in blissful lakes – it felt like paradise. As much as it is beautiful, Australia is vast – it blew my mind how much so – it’s the sixth largest country in the world, around 32 times the size of the UK. I found it hard to gauge the scale looking at a map, let alone driving across it – trips we factored hours for took days. When the news broke of the horrific bush fires happening around the country, the size and scale of them felt unimaginable. Australia is no stranger to hot weather, its climate is one of the reasons Brits and tourists flock there and why many stay. Bush fires are not new news either. But those started in November 2019, and still taking place now, are the worst on record. Temperatures are the highest ever experienced. Thousands of people have had to flee their homes. Millions of acres of land have been incinerated. People have lost their lives. A billion animals have, too. The figures are staggering. In times of crisis it’s easy to feel helpless. But, we need to get to the root of the problem – climate change. It’s not a time to sit back and watch, it’s a time for action. And the good news is everyone can do something to help. This issue is packed with ideas on how to reduce your impact, clean up your lifestyle and, in turn, the planet. If we don’t act now, Australia could be just the beginning – we need to protect our beautiful Earth. Have a great month, Phillipa Editor