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.

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Reduce

  • Buy fewer single use plastics e.g.
    • Buy more robust cups and glasses and reuse
    • Make your own yoghurt and soup instead of buying
  • Buy 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 - local suppliers include:
  • Use non-plastic alternatives – look in shops or online for
    • Paper-based cotton buds
    • Greaseproof paper sandwich bags or bees-wax covers
    • Knit your own cotton dishcloths (example patterns) and wash in the washing machine

Reuse

Refill plastic containers e.g. soap, washing liquid

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.

water refill

Recycle

Repurpose

  • Look online to see ways of repurposing plastic containers e.g.
    • Use an old fruit juice or milk bottle to water plants
    • Cut off the bottom or side of large bottles and use them as small planters or seed trays
  • Convert your plastic waste into an Ecobrick, stuffing a plastic bottle with non-recyclable plastics. There is debate about the pros and cons of Ecobricks. Go to GoBric and Worcester Ecobrick drop-off on Facebook for more info.

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

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.