|Single use plastic bottles. Things need to change.|
Selfridges has become my favourite shop at the moment (OK, I admit that I have never ever had a favourite before now!) because they have begun to take a bold and sensible lead on plastic bottles.
The department store has banned water bottles from its shelves, including the Food hall, and has installed a water fountain for thirsty customers instead. Selfridges sell about 400,000 plastic bottles of water annually, so this is quite a big thing for them to do.
This is all part of Project Ocean 2015, held in association with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Marine Reserves Coalition (MRC), driven by the frankly terrifying idea that within the next decade oceans could hold as much as 1kg of plastic for every 3kg of fish, as the scourge of single-use plastics continues.
Can you believe that the UK uses around 15 million plastic bottles per day, many of which are simply discarded once we have consumed the contents?
A substantial amount of plastic in our oceans comes from consumer waste. Unfortunately, only 24% of the 5 million tonnes of plastic used in the UK each year is reused or recycled and according to a recent study, globally 13 million tonnes of plastic waste enters our ocean every year. If you think that plastic bottles can take between 450-1,000 years to break down into smaller pieces, you do not have to belong to MENSA to realize that this has become a big issue.
The problem has become so bad that one giant floating debris patch in the Pacific, has grown to become twice the size of the state of Texas.
A 2014 study found that ingestion of debris has been documented in 56% of cetacean (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) species, with some individual species having rates as high as 31% of the population effected.
"The whales that wash up on the beach are only a small percentage of those that die," says Frances Gulland, a senior scientist with the Marine Mammal Centre in Sausalito, California. Sperm whales are particularly susceptible to plastic debris ingestion, she explains; they mistake debris for squid, their main prey. "Every sperm whale that I have necropsied has had a lot of nets and pieces of plastic in its stomach", she said. “One of the whales had at least 400 pounds of debris in its stomach”.
Around the world, an estimated one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year from becoming entangled in plastics or other materials, as well as a result of swallowing discarded litter.
Through Project Ocean 2015, Selfridges is leading the charge and saying no to single-use plastic water bottles, which are unnecessary when we have healthy water in our taps and easy access to reusable vessels.
So, well done Selfridges for highlighting the problem and making a start on doing something about it. What about other major outlets – come on – let’s see you do something too.
It is not just retailers that need to act of course, all of us can start to make changes in our everyday lives too. There has to be a major sea change to this “chuck-away” world we live in and it needs to start right now..