Earth Day 2018 is here! On Sunday 22nd April, we celebrate Earth Day 2018. Founded by the then Senator of Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day is an environmental movement started in 1970 in response to the massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969. Over the following twenty years, individuals from all over the US joined together to campaign for (or against) environmental issues up and down the country. In 1990 Earth Day went global and 200 million people in 141 countries highlighted some of the environmental issues which had worldwide relevance.
Today Earth Day is thought to be one of the one of the largest secular observances in the world with more than a billion people celebrating it each year.
The primary objective for Earth Day varies year on year and in 2018 the focus is to End Plastic Pollution. Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental issues that we face today; polluting our oceans and lands, endangering marine life and even damaging our health.
Since synthetic plastic was invented in 1907, it has become an all too familiar part of our lives. Its is literally everywhere!
For decades we have used plastic without knowing the full extent of the damage that it had/has caused. The environmental impact of plastic begins before it even leaves the factory. Derived from the refining of oil and natural gas, the initial drilling process to extract thefossil fuels from the Earth releases harmful greenhouse gas emissions (such as carbon monoxide, benzene and methane). The process of refining the oil and turning it into plastic then furthers these emissions:
According to the Earth day Network, The Enironmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that five ounces of carbon dioxide are emitted for every ounce of Polyethylene Terephthalate produced (also known as PET is the plastic most commonly used to make water bottles).
It’s not just the manufacturing of plastic that has long term effects. Plastic is commonly used to store food and drink, unfortunately chemicals can leach from some of the plastics – especially if they have been microwaved, and many of these chemicals are thought to be possibly linked to a variety of health concerns such as early puberty, cancer and abnormalities in the reproductive system.
Once plastic has been used it is more often than not discarded. Single use plastics are one of the biggest issues we face today. Plastic isn’t bio-degradable and there are many issues related to simply discarding it and decades of poor waste management has lead to huge amounts being dumped at sea.
The masses of plastic in our oceans has had a disastrous effect on marine life. Turtles, birds and other sea creatures can get caught up in plastic debris and be serious harmed or even killed. As well as the risk of being ensnared, marine creature can also ingest pieces of plastic. Although it doesn’t biodegrade, plastic does break up and so smaller pieces are often eaten and being indigestible, the plastic builds up in their stomachs preventing them from digesting actual food.
Obviously I have broken the issue of plastic pollution down into an incredibly simple overview but you get my drift.
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Single use plastics are one of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution. In 2015 the 5p bag charge was introduced in the U.K. and it is thought that as many as nine billion fewer bags are being used. The ban on plastic Microbeads in beauty products also came into force earlier this year following a similar ban in the US in 2015.
The good news is that plastic straws and cotton buds, two predominantly plastic based products may also be banned in England. In a bid to try and halt the pollution of our rivers and seas, the Government have made the announcement which could come into force in the UK as early as next year and the Prime Minester Teresa May hopes the announcement will encourage the Commonwealth heads of government to join the fight on plastic.
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The Earth Day Network has a brilliant website which is really informative and aimed at individuals and business alike. They have put together a fabulous document entitled the Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit. It’s a great resource, full of information on plastics and their various forms, ideas for reducing the amount of plastic you use and have also included a hand calculator which enables you to work out your plastic consumption.
What are you doing to reduce your plastic consumption?
Images: (1, 2, 3) Earth Day Network