We Have To Look After Our Home Planet | Earth Day 2018

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Earth Day was created as a national day to focus on the environment and how we can change the damage we have done and celebrate our home planet.

Earth Day was founded in 1970 by then U.S Senator Gaylord Nelson. After being shocked by the 1969 oil spill in California and inspired by the energy from the student anti-war movement and the public consciousness of air and water pollution Nelson thought this was the best time to get environmental protection on the national political agenda.

On the 22nd April 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment and by the end of that year, Earth Day had led to the creation of US Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water & Endangered Species Acts.
By 1990 Earth Day was global, Spreading across 141 counties and with 200 million people involved. Thus boosting environmental issues onto the world stage, which in turn gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and paved the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janerio.

Today, the fight for a clean environment continuities with increasing urgency, as the issues of climate change manifest more and more every day.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day. In honor of this milestone, Earth Day has set goals such as ending plastic pollution by 2020 and planting 7.8 billion trees, one for every woman, man and child on this earth.

Earth Day's 2018 campaign is all about 'Ending Plastic Pollution'. An issue I know all too well about living in Bali. Unfortunately, the lack of government waste initiatives and education on recycling and the effects of plastic in our oceans and on our land has led to a crisis on the beach fronts, rivers, and streets of the island.

This diver filmed the extent of the problem off the coast of Bali, tons of rubbish floating around with the tropical fish swimming through it. 

This isn't an issue that just effects this island, it is a global issue. The exact amount of plastic in our oceans is hard to quantify because they are tiny particles like microbeads that incorporate into the total, Some also sink to the ocean floor which makes it harder to find. However, is estimated that in the ocean there is 8 million metric tons of plastic ending up in our oceans yearly. By 2025 this is estimated to be twice of that if we don't change our ways.
Even floating on the surface of the ocean is up to 245,000 metric tons of plastic. Ever heard of the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch'? Google it.

Plastic Floating underwater in Pulau Bunaken, Indonesia //  Photograph by Paul Kennedy (source)

The effects of plastic pollution in our oceans and the marine life are huge. There are whales being found dead with plastic in their stomachs, turtles mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish and consuming them and getting plastic straws stuck up their nose (video), plus hundreds of thousand seabirds ingesting plastic every year which reduces the storage volume in their stomachs, causing the birds to consume less food and ultimately starve.
It's not just the marine life who get affected it's also us Humans. As plastics break apart in the ocean, this releases potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), These toxins are then absorbed into the body of the animals from eating the plastic pieces, this is then passed onto us via the food web.

When plastic is dumped in landfills, it reacts with water and forms hazardous chemicals. These chemicals seep underground and interfere with the drinking water quality. Wind also carries the plastic and deposits around the place causing more land litter. It can get stuck on poles, fences, bushes and any animals around could possibly suffocate to death.
Also, Burning Plastic to get rid of it will cause air pollution due to the release of poisonous chemicals.

We want the ocean to look like this, alive with animals and non-toxic.

Plastic is cheap and easy to use which has made the wave of plastic packaging so massive. Normally plastic items can take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills. Plastic bags that we use every day can take 10-1000 years to decompose, while plastic bottles can take 450 years or more.
This is why it is so important to stop our usage of plastic items, thus making production and demand decrease.

Recycling a great way to re-purpose plastic items. A company called Conceptos Plásticos (Plastic Concepts) was founded in Columbia, where they create bricks out of recycled plastic. They were able to build a house up to two stories high in five days. The bricks are able to insulate heat and have additives that make them fire resistant. Additionally, they are earthquake resistant, to keep up with regulations in Columbia due to the country's high levels of sesmic acitivty.
There are also companies that make clothes, shoes, and furniture out of recycled plastics.

Thankfully things are starting to change for example in the UK recently they introduced a charge for plastic bags, Which does deter people from picking one up. Ireland introduced the charge on plastic bags in 2002 and saw a 90% reduction in usage and litter after this tax was put into effect.
In other areas, chains like Wetherspoons are removing plastic straws from their pubs. Additionally, microbeads which are found in cosmetics and toothpaste have been banned in the UK.
People are becoming more aware of the effects of what this mass consumption is doing to our Planet.

Now you know the effects plastic consumption has on yourself and the Earth, here are some ways you can reduce the amount you use and throw away.

1. Use Reusable Shopping Bags
Always carry a canvas/cotton one in your bag to stop you from taking a plastic bag! So many shops have these bags for purchase nowadays. Even fashion shops sell them so you can get one with a cute design rather than a standard supermarket one. Some places sell them and donate the price to charity as well, so you are double helping!

2. Say NO to Straws
Staws are so unnecessary. It is estimated the UK used 8.5 billion straws a year, according to the Marine Conservation Society. Plastic straws are one of the top 10 items found in beach clean-ups.
Use an alternative, like glass, stainless steel or bamboo. I bought a set of 5 glass straws and a brush to clean them on Amazon for £9.

3. Buy a Reusable Water Bottle
Avoid buying one-use plastic bottles off the shelf with your meal deal. Bring a stainless steel water bottle around with you and re-fill it.

4. Bring Your Own Take-Out Boxes & Cutlery
Again, avoid picking up that plastic fork and plastic box to put your takeaway salad in. Bring your own! You can buy affordable ones on Amazon.

5. Go to a Local Produce Market
In the supermarket, you will see that everything is wrapped in plastic. If you go to a local market, you should be able to find loose fruits and vegetables that you can take home in one of your reusable bags. You're also supporting your local farmers by shopping with them, rather than chain supermarkets.

6. Start Recycling at Home and Work
If you're not already, start recycling. In the UK our trash pick up is quite efficient and the council will provide you with information on how to recycle and bins to separate the trash. If you are somewhere that doesn't have this, start your own and separate your rubbish into organic, plastics, paper and cans/bottles. Research your area and see if there are any local recycling centers that you can dispose of your trash in properly.

There are lots more ways to make a difference (see 101 ways to go Zero Waste) but this is a great place to start. I hope this post has opened your eyes to the effects of plastic usage and I hope you will take one of my tips and implement that into your daily life from now on. Every little helps!

Sign the petition to End Plastic Pollution

Happy Earth Day. Let's look after this Planet we call home, It's all we have.

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