Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects in the Earth's environment that adversely affects wildlife, habitats, and humans. Plastics are inexpensive, durable and often resistant to natural processes of degradation.
Plastics that act as pollutants can be categorized by size. Plastics can accumulate either in their original form (primary plastics) e.g. landfill contents, bottles and bottle tops, or as micro-plastics or plastic soup resulting from the degradation of primary plastics.
You can reduce your impact by buying and using fewer plastic items, reusing items when possible, carefully recycling items that can’t be reused, and inspired repurposing. There are examples below. Biodegradable, compostable and bio-plastics are all in development, but come with some problems in recycling - see below.
- Buy fewer single use plastics e.g.
- Buy more robust cups and glasses and reuse
- But fewer products with plastic packaging e.g.
- Buy loose fruit and vegetables
- Take a reusable plastic box to the butchers or deli counter
- Take your own bag to use in the vegetable isle of supermarkets
- Use alternatives
- Replace cling film with beeswax wraps and use dishes covered with a lid or suitable plate in the fridge and microwave
- Bar soap
- Bar shampoo (supermarkets, Pack-It-In Zero Waste Living, Worcester, Lush)
- Toothpaste tablets with fluoride e.g. Denttabs or other makes
- Milk in glass bottles e.g. delivered by Milk and More
- Milk direct from Churchfields farm 24 hours a day; non-homogenised with cream on top of the milk
- Use non-plastic alternatives – look online for
- paper-based cotton buds e.g. from Wilko
- greaseproof paper sandwich bags or bees-wax covers
Refill water bottles at home or at free public sites - download a 'Refill' app onto your phone.
Make your own soup and refill previously used plastic soup cartons.
- Make sure you recycle everything that can be:
- In the local council schemes; check your local council for details of what they accept Worcestershire County Council; Wychavon A to Z recycling guide
- At some local supermarkets e.g. plastic bags and magazine wrappers
- At specialist sites e.g. those run by Terracycle (check website for local drop-off points) include
- toothpaste and brushes - site in Droitwich coming shortly
- bread wrappers e.g. Hovis - check on Terracycle
- crisp packets - check on Terracycle for information on pick up points, some schools have collections too. Check for Walkers crisp packet recycling by Terracycle.
- glasses - local opticians accept old glasses for recycling and reuse
- contact lens pots and pods - some specsavers stores can recycle specialist elements via Terracycle
- mascara wands - wash and send in ziplock bag to the Linjoy Wildlife Sanctuary and Rescue - Midlands in Burton on Trent also on see Facebook
- Baby food pouches and Ella's kitchen snack wrappers - Terracycle collection point in Boston Tea Party, Worcester
- Look online to see ways of repurposing plastic containers e.g.
- Use an old fruit juice or milk jug to water plants
- Cut off the bottom or side of large bottles and use them as small planters or seed trays
Biodegradable, compostable and bio-plastics
The benefits of these types of plastic seem to outweigh any potential drawbacks, but the question of whether or not biodegradable plastics will someday replace traditional plastic is still a matter of debate.
Bio-plastics are made using renewable, plant materials e.g. corn oil, seaweed and starches. Bio-plastics are broken down by naturally occurring bacteria in the environment and do not release carbon or methane on decomposition.
Some bio-plastic packaging, such as that made from starch, will readily breakdown in the home environment. A good example is kitchen/food recycling caddy liners that are starch-based and will degrade when they get wet and when they are put in a well-maintained home composting bin. Some magazines are now delivered in potato or corn starch wrappers. These can be reused as food recycling bags in the same way.
NOTE: It is not possible to switch completely to these type of materials because they are not suitable for all applications.
Biodegradable and compostable plastics
Many plastics that are described as biodegradable or compostable will have to be collected with food waste or separated from the rest of the plastic waste and sent to a purpose-build industrial composting facility to be broken down successfully.
The natural breakdown of biodegradable plastic will not occur if it is simply tossed in a landfill with other rubbish. We must look to the local councils to advise us on which plastics are which as they are developed.
Please let Sparkles Wi know of any other useful sites and together we can start to make a difference.