The Plastic Problem

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What is Plastic?

Plastic is man-made from natural materials, such as coal and oil. It’s cheap and easy to make, strong and lasts a long time. It’s a popular material for making many things we use every day.

Plastic Waste Pollutes the Environment

The problem with plastic is that most of it isn’t biodegradable – which means it doesn’t rot, like paper or food. Instead it stays in the environment for hundreds of years. When we have finished using it the plastic item it has to go somewhere. Some ends up in landfill sites, but a lot of plastic waste pollutes the Environment, especially the oceans.

More than eight million tonnes of plastics enter the world’s oceans each year, blown into the sea from ships and beaches, carried there by rivers and from sewers. Our oceans are becoming swamped with plastic and it affects all marine life.

Plastic ‘Islands’ have now formed where the ocean currents have carried plastic waste to the same few areas. The most famous is the ‘Pacific Garbage Patch’ between California and Hawaii.

Recycling plastic

Whilst we can recycle some plastic it’s not possible to recycle it all. This might be because of the way it’s made or because it is too expensive or difficult to do. Items made from several types of material are hardest to recycle. For example crisp tubes, which are made of metal, plastic and cardboard, and many disposable coffee cups which have a waterproof plastic coating.

How you can help…

  • Make sure you recycle your household plastic.
  • Don’t use plastic straws – use a paper straw or don’t use a straw at all!
  • Take your own carrier bags when you go shopping.
  • Use a reusable water bottle when you’re out about rather than buying single use water bottles.
  • Stop more plastic entering the environment by litter picking in your local area. Look for local groups to go with.
  • Look after your plastic toys and pass them on to charity when you’ve outgrown them.
  • When you want something new try and buy it second-hand.
  • Buy loose fruit and veg to reduce on plastic food packaging.
  • Many local shops now offer ‘zero waste’ food shopping. Just take along your own containers and fill up with the products, such as rice, pasta, oats and cereal.
  • When you buy an ice cream always choose a cone over a disposable plastic pot and spoon.
  • Don’t buy cheap throwaway toys just for something to add to your party bags. There are lots of ideas for non-plastic party bag fillers online.