Melanie Fryer writes about plastic and how to avoid it in this week’s column.

Plastic is everywhere: in the supermarkets, in our homes, our landscape, rivers and seas. Microplastics have even been discovered in Arctic ice-flows. It is killing wildlife and can now be found in the food we eat.
How many people have been reduced to tears watching the iconic conservationist David Attenborough bring the plastic issue right into our living rooms?
Plastic is nothing new. It has been around for about 100 years. Who remembers the tupperware parties of the 1970’s? I still use that baking bowl! But the news of plastic particles being found on the top of the highest peak and at the depths of the deepest oceans is a recent shock.
It is really single-use plastic that is the problem as it takes energy to create, is only intended for a short use, and is then discarded. Not all plastic is recyclable and the system can be confusing. Even if it is put out for recycling it may still end up in landfill.
Single-use plastic, such as a plastic bag, takes hundreds of years to breakdown and never goes away completely, as it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Plastic in our oceans mainly come from the fishing trade and ‘leaks’ from (or lack of) waste management systems. 70% of our oxygen is produced by marine plants so we really should be looking after our oceans and not using them as a dumping ground.
Many people are making changes and there are a lot of quick wins but we need action at all levels and fast. Businesses need to collaborate with suppliers and councils need to lead by example.
Recently, The Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust was successful in securing funding for a project to remove all plastic tree guards in the Dales and send them for recycling. The next stage will be to plant 700 trees and research different methods of protecting the trees, rather than using plastic options

TOP TIPS FOR PLASTIC REDUCTION

  • Buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are not wrapped in plastic.
  • Use cloth/canvas re-usable bags.
  • Avoid single use coffee cups and food trays.
  • Use tea leaves or tea bags that do not contain plastic.
  • Use refill containers both for food and household liquids.
  • Ditch the cling film/wet wipes/plastic cutlery.
  • Always refill your water bottle, many railways stations now have water fountains.
  • Learn how to cook from scratch, avoid waste and use up left-overs. (reduce food waste too!)
  • If you buy at a supermarket and goods are in plastic wrap, send the plastic back via Freepost.
  • Keep up the pressure on the supermarkets and manufacturers to stop making it in the first place.
  • Join or organise a beach clean or local litter pick.
Over consumption is pushing our planet to its limits – REFUSE, REDUCE, RE-USE and then RECYCLE.
There are no excuses, we created this mess, it is up to us to rectify it.

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