Phasing out Plastic Pollution: a cross-party common goal that needs immediate action
Plastic is, quite literally, everywhere. We are already aware of the twelve million tons of plastic pollution that surge in to the oceans every year, but that isn’t the whole story. Traces have been found in the deepest sea trench, the highest mountain, in the water that comes from our taps and circulating in the air that we breathe. Plastic continues to be produced from multiple aspects of a modern, industrialized world. Picture London’s Oxford Street: the constant production of synthetic clothing churned out for over 300 shops, and the relentless wearing down of vehicle tyres along the road. What we choose to wear and how we choose to travel can contribute to microplastic pollution. Plastic, despite killing vast amounts of marine wildlife, is not an epidemic confined to the ocean.
The pervasive existence of plastic is not always visible, and yet at the same time we can see it every day. Supermarket isles provide us with the daily reminders: courgettes in plastic, carrots in plastic, bananas in… plastic. It has now become commonplace for items that were once sold naked to be dressed in a toxic and transparent robe. Friends of the Earth just launched a #DrasticOnPlastic timer challenge to show the depressing truth: it is very difficult to avoid unwanted plastics.
According to a YouGovpoll, 89% of the British public want manufacturers to cut-down on plastic waste and pollution ,as well as the over 210,000 people who signed the Friends of the Earth petition calling for government action. Everyone wants it, but we need the legal framework to make it happen.
Recently, in the House of Commons, Friends of the Earth and The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) supported a bill - presented by Alastair Carmichael MP – which calls for ‘The Phase-Out of Plastic Pollution’. This is based on the premise that the government are not doing enough in response to the crisis. The Bill pushes for the long-term goal of ending plastic pollution by 2042, and more imminently, ending the use of non-essential single-use plastics by 2025. They have called for a legally binding commitment to ensure that current and future governments prioritize both reduced usage and alleviation of existing pollution. The Bill is rigorous and extensive in proposing a plan of attack on plastic pollution.
As was the case with the Climate Change Act 10 years ago, a legislative approach is needed alongside regular monitoring and evaluation to ensure that targets are met. The plastics crisis addresses the macro-plastics that impose harm on wildlife; the micro-plastics that absorb toxins and enter food chains; and the overall impact on whole ecosystems, human health degradation being just one of many serious consequences.
The bill has been supported by a cross-party group of MPs, which is indicative that the plastic crisis affects us all. The issue cannot be boxed in to the concerns of a particular political sentiment – it is a human issue, an earth issue, and it is global. At Last week’s House of Commons reception, Rebecca Powell, Conservative MP for Taunton, offered her support for the ambition of the Bill and urged that it be taken seriously. Along with Ann Jones from NFWI, Powell mentioned the ban of Micro-beads last year as a success story, showing how public power can evoke policy change.
In a Brexit-dominated Westminster, Plastic pollution along with climate change mitigation has been side-lined. This evident in the 610 MPs who failed to show up for debate on 2nd March. In reality, plastic pollution knows no nation states, no borders, and no EU. Regardless of in or out, the problem will continue to grow if it continues to be ignored. On Monday, Craig Bennett of Friends of the Earth spoke towards the need for a collective agreement on a common goal. Rather than focusing on the different ways we might propose to achieve it, establishing a common goal – Bennett said – will provide the first step in radically reducing our plastic usage.
The Phase-out of Plastic Pollution Bill is evidential of a common goal. Recycling is undoubtedly effective, but it cannot keep up with an ever-growing plastic-producing industry. The time has come to tighten the reigns on the production of plastic and hold the polluters accountable. Individual action must be strengthened and heavily supported by UK legislation which targets both long-term initiatives and immediate changes. Let’s hope that this Bill will be passed, and more importantly, will strengthen a global initiative to rescue our earth, seas and skies from the plastic epidemic.
Come to our event! - Want to learn more about the actual make-up of plastics and how the toxic chemicals within them can affect us? Come to our event! We have an esteemed panel of advocates and campaigners for plastic-free living, with vast knowledge on the plastic that hides in the places that we might not expect it to. This event will also offer solutions for how we can be wary of hidden toxic plastics and ways we can adapt our lives to avoid them. The event will also involve a short film-viewing, refreshments, stalls, and chance for a Q&A.
Generation Plastic! – Toxic Chemicals in Plastics, What’s the problem?
Date & Venue:
20th March 2019 6-9pm
25 New Inn Yard
London EC2A 3EA
Helen Lynn, Co-founder, CoolGreen and Health Adviser, WEN
Dr Anna Watson, Head of Advocacy, CHEM Trust
Emma Ross, Mamalina, Plastic Free Vlogger & Blogger
Jayn Sterland, MD, Weleda UK
Emma Priestland, Plastic Campaigner, Friends of the Earth
Chantal Van den Bossche, Head of Communications & Advocacy, WECF
Sammy Britten, Nappy Ever After