09 Mar I’m a Barbie girl in a Barbie world, wrapped in plastic; it’s NOT fantastic.
By Kyna, Adam, Ryan, Lucy, Euan, Ethan
Ulidia Integrated College, Carrickfergus
The plastic problem in our oceans has reached crisis point. Approximately one million sea birds are killed every year due to this modern day material Ulster wildlife Trust). Wildlife is dying right now by choking on the six pack plastic around cans, by eating floating plastic thinking it is food, by regurgitating plastic and feeding it to their young, by ingesting plastic with plankton as it is floating in feeding areas. We believe this is a disgrace!
Every year one million seabirds die in plastic related deaths. Over 100,000 marine mammals, turtles and sharks die because of plastic. Now with these animal numbers decreasing and the amount of plastic rising, this problem is likely to get worse. Shockingly scientists predict that in 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans in terms of weight (Guardian 2016).
We have witnessed this increase in plastic first hand. On the week of 19th January we took part in a joint litter pick with our twinned eco school in Madagascar. We found out that on both of our local beaches which were 5,942 miles apart that we had a very similar problem. Plastic was found on both beaches in large supply. ISL recycling state that 82% of waste on beaches in Northern Ireland is plastic, we found that 90% of our waste collected on this litter pick was plastic. Indeed, plastic waste is not just an issue in Hawaii, or India, or the Caribbean. Plastic waste is a global issue; we are living in a plastic wrapped world.
Who is to blame for this catastrophe? The answer seems to lie in many places. The first group who are at fault are co-operations and businesses. They have control over the amount of plastic that they use, and send into our society. Businesses have control over the amount of plastic that goes into their products. We, the consumer, we are also to blame. We purchase the products wrapped and containing plastic. While recycling has become more of feature of the corporate world recently, they are still not doing enough. Ultimately, in our opinion, business puts profit before the environment and plastic is cheap. Media and advertising are also carry a portion of the blame. Expensive advertising campaigns promoting high demand plastic products convince the public to buy them, again money talks. There is not enough awareness about waste on adverts, Television news channels and newspapers, nor are consumers encouraged to recycle their plastic produces when finished with them at the point of purchase.
Governments around the globe are contributing to this problem. In many countries the plastic crisis is not seen as an issue of importance and the consequences of causing harm to the environment are not severe enough. Authorities in many areas are not promoting awareness of this issue in public. In many places there is not enough funding to get different recycling bins. We are glad to be part of the population of Mid and East Antrim council area, as our local council are taking an active role in encouraging our community to recycle and to reduce waste. In spring 2017 Mid and East Antrim council had the highest rate of recycling in Northern Ireland with more than 60% of glass and 73.6% of organics being recycled in the borough.
There is a carelessness and ignorance about littering, with some people making no effort to educate themselves about the uses of recycling. Laziness can lead to the placing of litter into incorrect bins or not into any bin at all. As consumers we often buy products that have unnecessary plastic on them which creates even more demand for these items. Plastic bags are charged at 5p, but they are still accessible to the public. Because it is still convenient to access plastic bags consumers still rely on them instead of making a greater effort to bring a reusable bag with them when shopping.
However there are steps we can all take to tackle the plastic problem in this world that we all share. We can start by reusing plastic bottles which will save 17 barrels of oil; 50 billion bottles are bought each year, but 80% end up in land fill in the US (Ban the Bottle). If we put plastic bottles in the recycling bin, then it is made into other products, meaning that less plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean, and less energy is required to make new plastic bottles from scratch.
We, the youth, the consumers of today and tomorrow, can put pressure on businesses to use less plastic in their products. Businesses want a good reputation in order to get more money and customers. As consumers we can buy products that do not use plastics and create a higher demand for them. Some businesses are already recycling more used waste like cardboard and reusing it again. McDonalds is a multinational cooperation which is leading the way in recycling. McDonalds has pledged this year to ensure that by 2025 all of its packaging will be composed solely of recycled materials (BBC).
A positive local action that we can all do is to support our local schools’ eco-clubs such as that at Ulidia Integrated College which organises litter picking events within the community every half term including along Carrickfergus Shorefront. When local communities encourage students like us to recycle and to practice positive habits then we learn these habits and they become a way of life for us, the next generation of consumers.
The Plastic Crisis is threatening to devastate our oceans and our environment; however there are steps we can take to stop this. The question is – are you willing to play your part? The world that we inherit does not have to be wrapped in plastic.
Joint litter pick with Port Duphine School, Madagascar.
Shanna Rice, Ulster Wildlife Trust, Marine Waste (Presentation and QA session)