Greta Thunberg is right: “The problem of plastic pollution is even worse than anyone feared.”

Izaak Hannard interviews UK environmentalists on the plastic pollution problem and discusses how they are raising awareness for a brighter and greener future.

“We are throwing a garbage truck a minute into the oceans full of plastic.” UK environmentalist warns.

“We are throwing a garbage truck a minute into the oceans full of plastic.” Michelle Parkes from Plogolution warns, as recent studies show 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enters our oceans every year – and is set to double by 2030.

As the media seemingly is absorbed by another type of political climate, there serves a distraction from pressing environmental issues that are (literally) dying for our attention. One of them so happens to be that our oceans are in turmoil. The silent destruction of life under the sea – it’s not happening if we don’t see it, right?

A worrying number of viral videos online show just how deep the issue is becoming – with beach-goers untangling sea creatures from plastic rings that would inevitably die without human intervention. The disruption of our eco-systems is something that needs to be discussed more broadly and why culture seems to be turning a blind eye to this issue.

Michelle Parks, a UK environmentalist at Plogolution argued that there is a culture of being wasteful when it comes to littering and being anti-recycling.

“We live in a throw away culture, one where we don’t see the impact that these actions have. Especially in the UK, not many of us see the impact of plastic and waste washing up on beaches. I find that until people have been on a ‘plog’, or a litter pick, they can be blind to how much rubbish we have littering our streets and waterways.

Michelle stressed the unfathomable amount of plastic we really are polluting our oceans with and her mission to raise generational awareness.

“At Plogolution we are trying to tackle this culture by going into schools to educate on the environment and sustainability. The idea being that if we can mould attitudes at a young age, the next generation will grow up wanting to take care of their planet.”

At Plogolution UK, Michelle and a team of eight environmentalists will be embarking on a 184-mile journey across the River Thames next month to take part in an ‘ultra plog’. The aim of these so called ‘plogs’ are to collect plastic waste from rivers and oceans as a way of contributing in saving our oceans and rivers from the ongoing plastic crisis.

“We live in a throw away culture, one where we don’t see the impact that these actions have.”

The event across the River Thames in London will take place from May 27 to June 1 and is free for all to attend. It hopes to benefit greatly in capturing plastic waste before it enters the North Sea.

The WWF reported last year that 1,000 marine turtles died along with over 270 animal species due to plastic waste.

A terrifying study conducted in 2018 shows that 393 million tons of plastic is just freely floating around the ocean, waiting to swallow the next sea life it finds. Though, many causes of aquamarine life have been unexplained, there has been a spate of videos emerging online where passers-by on beaches are having to untangle creatures that are mingled in single-use plastic beer rings.

Carlsberg were recently applauded by environmentalists with their recent efforts to replace plastic beer rings with recyclable glue holders. This is to reduce 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste per year (approximately 60 million plastic bags), a huge step where hopefully other company’s will eventually follow suit.

Sebastien Gauthier, an environmentalist at BlueRock argues that unexplained cases where sea creatures have washed up on coastlines is due to the plastic pollution crisis. Sebastien said “although there is no certainty, I believe it is highly likely. Even if the marine animal shows little sign of physical damage from plastic pollution, there is a good chance that plastic pollution has impacted its life in some other less obvious way, e.g. plastic poisoning, habitat destruction or ecosystem disruption.”

It was a bleak start to April for the environment when a pregnant sperm whale in Sardinia was found dead with 22 kilos of plastic in her stomach. So where do we go as a society go from here to tackle the issue surrounding plastic pollution that is seemingly destroying our oceans?

Sebastien stressed that governments need to do more warning that “the collapse of our marine life ecosystems will inevitably lead to the imbalance and destruction of land-based life, including humans. This is clearly a pressing issue that is not getting the attention it requires.

“Although media attention is certainly growing month-on-month, the crisis has already begun. The media has a crucial part to play in the awareness of the issue at hand and we need them to be making more of a fuss.

“I don’t think there is enough environmental education at school. As the future custodians of the planet, and all life on it, it is paramount that the younger generations are equipped with the knowledge to help them create a sustainable world. The focus would need to be on the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.”

Plastic washed up on UK beach

Sebestien explained that BlueRock has a team of environmentalists dedicated in raising awareness surrounding the danger of single-use plastic. To raise awareness, they have been selling self-manufactured bamboo toothbrushes, in a bid to start phasing out a common household product made of plastic that we probably don’t’ think about when we throw the old ones out.

The elimination of single-use plastics may benefit us massively in this environmental crisis and signals a need of sustainability change to save our environment.

“We must stop using single-use plastic and at the very least stop using single-use plastic that is non-recyclable.

“In many cases there are alternative materials for various plastic applications. Bamboo is a perfect example of this because it is very sustainable, grows rapidly, doesn’t require intense processing and is completely home-compostable.”

BlueRock have already sold more than 10,000 bamboo toothbrushes across the UK since launching in 2017.

The environment is living through unsteady times in its current climate and these new findings certainly demonstrate that only we can prevent the long-term irreversible damage that is looking to be inevitable – unless awareness is raised for change to truly begin. Greta Thunberg was right, it’s time to start listening to the facts.

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