Henderson Island part of the, UK owned, Pitcairn Islands has recently received the ignominious label of having the highest density of plastic pollution anywhere in the world.
The island which is listed by UNESCO as a coral atoll, and which sits some 3000miles from Chile, has been found to have at least 671 items of plastic per square metre, in other words the tiny island is covered in 17 tonnes of plastic waste.
The findings on, the remote, Henderson Island show that plastic consumption now adversely affects almost every aspect of life on Earth. With everyday items such as razors, toothbrushes and cigarette lighters regularly found amongst the detritus on Henderson the news should throw into sharp relief how we think about and use plastics, especially items labelled as “single-use”.
Furthermore, in the same week that Henderson Island’s plastic plight was highlighted, two big brands made headlines for having the worst packaging for recycling. Lucozade sports bottles and Pringles tubes were singled out as two of the worst culprits when it came to ease (or not) of recycling.
The somewhat iconic Pringles packaging was described by Simon Ellin, CEO of the UK Recycling Association, as “a nightmare” to recycle due to how many materials go into each tube. The packaging is composed of, a metal base, plastic cap, foil tear-off lid, and a cardboard tube which is also lined with foil.
The problems do not stop with Pringles tubes and Lucozade bottles (whose plastic sleeves cause major issues) but are exacerbated by supermarkets copying the designs for their own-brand products. Environmental campaigners have urged companies to stop using designs which are impossible to recycle and to work together to design products than can be not only recycled but hygienically reused.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. There are multiple charities and organisations working to raise awareness of plastic pollution and to make a difference to this growing problem. One such organisation is Plastiki, led by Jo Royal, whose work was recognised by RSGS with the Geddes Environment Medal. Jo and the crew of the Plastiki collected 1800 plastic bottles from the oceans and then used them to build a boat which they sailed from Sydney to San Francisco. The Plastiki voyage gained worldwide publicity and brought attention to the issues of plastic in our oceans, highlighting the fact that the same amount of plastic pulled from the oceans to build Plastiki ends up in the water every 8.3 seconds.
Another organisation raising awareness about plastic pollution is the Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, promoted by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, in which competitors are challenged to take on two challenges. The first challenge is to find a solution to small items such as straws and bottle tops ending up in our oceans. The second challenge is to innovate solutions for general packaging designs to make them easier to recycle.
Therefore, whilst we may be facing a world of plastic issues there are people working to stop it becoming a plastic apocalypse. We can also all make a difference by making basic changes to our habits from no longer buying products with non-recyclable packaging to ensuring our recycling is correctly sorted.
What can you do?
Ditch the “single use” carrier bags. Where possible use “bags for life” and take any single use bags back to the store for recycling.
Rinse and recycle plastic bottles and containers with the “recyclable” symbol.
Visit www.recyclenow.com to see how your plastics can be recycled.
Chose brands with a good environmental track record and strategy.
Check your local council website for information on what can be recycled in your local area.
And… remember you’re a Womble!
The BBC has now posted a handy link to alternative uses for your Pringles cans!