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Is enough being done to win the war on plastic?

Having recently attended the Conservative Party Conference on behalf of Groundwork Youth and facilitated discussions with MPs and young people in the Youth Zone, Young Green Ambassador, Hannah Iqbal, has been reflecting on what role the government can and should play in community environmental efforts. In Scotland, funding is being aimed at schemes which 'capture, collect, recover and reprocess marine plastic waste'. This week it was announced that projects which prevent plastics entering the marine environment could also receive financial backing. £500,000 has already been earmarked for the initiative and there are discussions underway around doubling that figure.

Plastic pollution is perhaps one of the biggest environmental problems facing the planet right now. With plastic pollution being found as far as the Arctic and making its way into our bodies, our dependency on plastic and throw away culture must be tackled.

UK Government's 25 year plan

The war on plastics is being tackled by governments across the globe as they attempt to fight climate change. With the UK government's new 25 year plan to support and promote environmental sustainability they have set targets to stop the production of all avoidable plastic waste by 2050. But is this action too little too late? Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the government’s plan as it is 'far too long to take action'. The European Union is also attempting to take on the plastic problem by making every piece of plastic recyclable by 2030. In 2016, China processed half of the worlds recycled plastics, however, with China no longer willing to be a dumping ground for waste, where will plastic waste go? And are governments really doing enough to tackle the plastic problem?

Plastic Planet

Just 5% of plastics are recycled effectively and one third of all plastic waste ends up in our ecosystems. The Ellen McArthur foundation predicts that there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050 unless the government and industry clean up their acts. These effects will be felt further than just our ecosystems, plastic pollution means it enters the bodies of fish, which will undoubtedly end up on our dinner tables. European water also contains plastic pollution, so besides the ecosystem, plastic pollution is affecting our bodies. Therefore, it is up to us to make sure governments are keeping their promises to tackle the plastic problem.

85% of all beach litter is made up of plastic. This leads to many animals ingesting plastic products and marine mammals are too often being found caught up and entangled in litter. But plastic waste becomes an even bigger problem when it becomes too small to be collected; this pollution is spreading even as far as the Arctic. Even beyond the destruction of habitats and effects on sea life, who wants to see their beach covered in litter? 

Throw away culture

The UK, along with many other countries is guilty of a throw away culture. Frans Timmermans,vice-president of the Europe commission claimed 'single use plastics take five seconds to produce, you use it for five minutes and it takes 500 years to break down again'.  Jeremy Corbyn claimed that the ‘throw away culture’ must be tackled. Many of us are guilty of throwing away plastic bottles after one use and forgetting to bring our own bags when we do our shopping - this culture is adding to our dependency on plastic. Supermarkets are now being urged to have plastic free isles in an attempt to clamp down on plastic packaging.

Zero Waste projects

However, not all hope is lost: we can also do something to tackle plastic waste.  There have been a number of zero waste shops across the UK set up. Customers bring their own containers and fill them up with food; this plastic free initiative helps people to be conscious of the amount of plastic waste they are using. ‘The clean kilo’ is a zero waste shop which opened in Birmingham in spring of 2018. Zero waste shops can also be found in London, Aberdeen, Bath and Bristol. In addition, it is up to us to be more conscientious about what packaging we are buying and reusing bags to avoid a plastic build-up.

Guest post by Hannah Iqbal, a Groundwork Young Green Ambassador, International Relations Student at Birmingham University and former communications volunteer at Groundwork UK.

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