Over the last decade, its dawned on me that we have been living in a society addicted to plastics. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but on the Beaches of Anglesey whilst out running or doing our water sports its increasingly obvious that more and more plastic is being washed up on our shores. Each day we see the tide roll in and then out again, bringing with it a new wave of flotsam that has been discarded to the deeps. This is the story of single use plastics.
So what are single use plastics you may ask? Well put simply, plastic packaging that gets used once in its life cycle and then is discarded. Examples of this are, plastic bottles, plastic straws, plastic cotton wool buds, plastic lighters and plastic tooth picks to name but a few. They get used once, then chucked into landfill or the oceans. Most of the emphasis has been on ocean related plastics found on the foreshores of late, but this is only half the story. The rest end up in landfill sites across the world. Plastics can last upto 600 years until they finally degrade down into such small particulate size, that we can’t see them anymore. But they never really degrade down totally, they move into particulate form and then they enter our fresh water systems first and then us through our drinking waters thereafter.
Whether we are scuba diving, spear fishing or swimming on Anglesey, we notice the plastic waste on our outings more and more. Some plastics are deposited on the foreshore but most is below the low tide region, where most beach goers don’t actually see it. Some times on the receding tide line, a line of small particulate plastics is left in a wave crest like pattern all the way down the beach in multiple waves. Those particulate plastics are symptomatic of a far greater problem and those beaches are part of a bigger network of beaches all suffering the same fate.
With a fast food style, fast consumer society, the demand for super fast, super cheap plastic goods from foreign countries got the better of us.. we succumbed to the capitalistic culture that served us, oh-so-well. Then the plastic hangover kicked in. Its like waking up thirty years later after a bad night out and seeing the results of your tequila filed antics. Yes plastics have made our lives a lot easier – you have to struggle to think of any house hold products without plastic in right? But what where the consequences ? maybe its time for a change in our ethos..
With the BBC popularising the plastics global problem on the most recent amazing documentary on the blue planet 2, I think the whole globe finally got the understanding that we are in a whole world of bother with our plastics mess. But there have been amazing ambassadors on the internet who have been doing their piece long before the BBC piped up. Patagonia have been doing an amazing job with their ethical companies for the pst 20 years. And their ambassadors like Liz Clarke from Swell voyage have played a pivotal role. Along with a host of very popular bloggers such as Lessplastic, Paredownhome, Treadingmyownpath, goingzerowaste and more.
We have seen the vast ocean gyres of plastic floating around the pacific and the sandal filled beaches of the pacific Oceana, and the garbage filled slums and waterways of India that are beyond shocking. It seems the whole world has suffered the same fate from our addiction to the black gold. Whilst studying this in oceanography at university almost ten years ago now, back then there did not seem to be an imminent threat to nature, but maybe there was all along and the world of technology just hadn’t caught up yet to spread the word.
With the increase of connectedness of our society through the medium of social media in this age, word travels almost instantaneously. Images are shared in a heart beat and videos go viral. This wonderfully blessed time that we live with this thing called the internet can be most amazing. We can rally support for people in need in minutes with Gofund me pages at the click of a mouse, we can raise awareness to a causes that we feel are important to our communities and we can show real time video and images of events unfolding there and then. This is true empowerment.
The power is firmly back in our hands, ironically it always was we just never realised it. But remember we are the people who must take action, don’t wait for your governments to jump at the task- they won’t, unless it serves them in the next elections. Take back the power and vote with your feet and your pound. What do I mean by this?, when you walk on a beach, take a back pack with you and pick up anything plastic you see, as little an effort as this can make an differnece- make it a habit. Blog it and show the world what your doing and share the good deed. It may inspire another to do the same. Call this your beach tax.
When you are purchasing house hold goods make sure they are in line with the same ethics. Make sure they are plastic free (if you can) opt for bamboo alternatives, choose metals over plastics and natural fibres over plastic materials. There are a whole world of options out there now to choose from. If you want a more detailed idea there are many really cool blogs out there which help you navigate your way to becoming zero waste and plastic free. This is not a fassionble trend, this is a cultural shift in ethos.
So what changes can we make to our daily rituals and habits to make a difference to Mother Nature? Start small. The disposable coffee cups you drink are not as disposable as you may think- in fact they are not at all and have a plastic lined inner which can’t be separated and recycled. Opt for a bamboo refillable one instead or a metal SIGG coffee flask that your favourer coffee shop can fill up for you.
Next ditch the plastic straws. Opt for paper ones in pubs and restaurants and for the home purchase bamboo straws or stainless steel ones. I can’t tell you how many plastic straws we see on the shores of Anglesey. its shocking.
Lastly cotton wool buds, again these litter the foreshores of every beach in the land after being flushed down the toilet. It doesn’t need to be this way. Buy the Bamboo alternative, easy hey? .. and thats how it all begins. I’m constantly getting schooled in this new cultural shift also, so I’m not the guru here merely a pupil, but a keen one! I’ve had an eco coffee cup for a while, I don’t buy disposable coffee cups and I stay away from single use plastics as best I can, its a process. Start with an eco shopping bag and move from there.
Top offenders in our flight against pollution in our oceans
Its kind of fun and In some ways I treat it as a new adventure in our shopping styles. Plus I really like all these small independent retailers I’m finding along the path who create these new organic, wholesome products. Im done with the big industrial firms, they are a thing of the past. Independents who make products with love, not harming our planet along the way are the future.
There have been great initiatives started and run by outstanding people and teams of volunteers in our community of Anglesey pushing for a ” Plastics free status ” Sian from Psyched paddleboarding and Surfers against sewage teams have been rallying to push for this initiative that would see local business backing the plan and scale back on their use of single use plastics, this would mean the use of plastic straws, bottles and disposable cups would be a thing of the past. Plans to push for a plastic free high street, as well as water refill points across the Island of Anglesey / Yuns Mon are to be made available to visitors purchasing single use plastic water bottles. So lets push not only for a plastic free Anglesey but a Plastics free north Wales too!
Sian is currently on her own plastics free adventure raising awareness of this topic by paddle boarding around the whole of Wales self supported. This 60 day plus adventure has taken here through the waterways of Wales all the way to the Bristol Channel where she currently is at time of writing moving back north. You cam follow her adventure at her facebooked here. Business is as usual with Psyched Paddleboarding though still so book now for your summer trips with her and her trusted team.
As an oceanographer I have traveled the globe working out at sea, been any seen many beautiful ports around the world. They all have the same conundrum. Plastic waste. Looking back now, I just though it was the norm- of course it was wasn’t, it was terrible and we always did a clean up and tried to recycle wherever we could. But back them we didn’t really have the means to make a solid change via eco products. But those times have now changed. We now do.
The effects on wildlife are the main priority amongst all of this though and that should be pressed. We are not amphibious and do not have gills. it is their home not ours that we are systematically destroying by our addiction to plastics. The prey that fall to these oceanic mobile plastics are vast. From Gulls to turtles to fish to whales. I could go on. So this is not limited to litter problem this is a full blown biological catastrophe for our aquatic cousins. So time is of the essence if we wish to have an ecosystem left to protect!
Top 10 Plastic free products :
2. Steel straws
This is why we have set up our whatson plastics free online store. We wanted to learn what the eco options where ourselfs. So we set about learning and then thought, we have a website why not set up a amazon store with all the products we could find and share them with you guys. That way we can educate ourself and create a more balanced life in line with Mother Nature.
We hope it gives you some ideas and inspiration to step away from plastics piece by piece. we will be adding to it with the more and more products we test ourselves and we will only promote items that we feel that have a positive impact on you and the planet. Over the past five years both myself and my girlfriend have undergone a huge transformation in our shopping styles, diets and lifestyle to become more balanced. Maybe your the same.
We want to create a buzz around this new movement and get behind it all we can. Our plan is to create a massively reduced reliance on plastics. We will donate 10% of any profits we receive through the affiliate links on amazon to a local related plastic cause or charity- maybe you can help with that? Ideas are always welcome. Drop us a comment below. Also if you have any ideas for the store we would love to hear from your s we will be continually updating the items in there.
In the future we will roll out a full E- commerce store, but thats work in progress. For now know that our minds are on helping create an understanding on the issue, then solutions to the problems we face. A thousand mile journey is said to begin with the first step. So lets begin. Together. Nick