20th February 2020
What can we do about plastic?
by Michael Barker
Plastic gets everywhere, doesn't it? It hangs around in the trees and bushes, it lurks in the undergrowth, plainly visible at this time of year, it floats in the river, getting caught up on fences, branches etc. and it piles up on beaches around the world, bags, cartons, bottles, plastic rope, toothbrushes and more.
(Plastic bottles, for example, take 450 years to biodegrade and in the UK we collectively dispose of 350 million bottles per year.)
That's only the visible debris. Microparticles of plastic are in all the oceans from the surface to the depths and are even in polar ice. A recent sample of fish from the English channel showed that 30% had plastic microparticles in their digestive tracts. Birds and other marine species have ingested larger items of plastic to the detriment of their health. None of this is good for the abundance and diversity of life on this planet. So, what can we do?
Plastic can be recycled and if you visit the Sevenoaks D.C. website you can find details of what can be recycled locally. Many plastic bottles can be recycled, including drink bottles (not if they have a plastic sleeve e.g. lucozade) and bottles that have contained household cleaning products, including the pump action nozzle. Bottles that have contained hazardous chemicals, including engine oil cannot be recycled.
Not all plastic bottles are equally recyclable, clear bottles have more recycling value than pigmented ones, so it's better to buy drinks and cleaning products in clear plastic bottles.
Better still is to avoid using plastic in the first place; recycling uses energy and creates greenhouse gases. Reusable drinks bottles are easily sourced and will keep your drink cool. (As far as I know there is no evidence that bottled water is more healthy than tap water). Shopping "bags for life" obviate the need for carrier bags, as long as you don't leave them in the drawer when you go shopping! If you enjoy takeaway coffee, buy a reusable takeaway cup (responsibly sourced fairtrade cups are available from an Oxfam shop near you!)
So, reusing is better than recycling, recycling is better than sending to landfill or carelessly discarding, but check the Sevenoaks D C website to be sure of what you can recycle locally.