Sickening pictures from the remote, uninhabited Henderson Island in the UK’s Pitcairn Islands territory show up to 671 plastic items on every single square metre.
Researchers estimate that there are up to 37.7 million pieces of plastic on the isle.
Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean every year, killing marine life, threatening ecosystems and contaminating seafood.
In the UK we throw away 35 million plastic bottles EVERY DAY. These take more than 450 years to degrade, breaking down into smaller pieces of microplastic which pollute the marine environment and often are eaten by marine life, which can be fatal.
This isn’t to preach the moral high ground.
I’m as guilty of throwing away waste as anybody. And we can’t rely just on awareness driven by photos like this to change our culture towards it. There is a straightforward policy answer to this though, that would make a huge difference.
That’s a ‘deposit return scheme’ Sounds dull doesn’t it. It’s basically a tax on plastic bottles that can be easily reclaimed by bringing them back to collection points.
A comprehensive report for the Campaign to Protect Rural England by consultants Eunomia showed exactly how it could be done – and what it would achieve. (Page 17 of the report sets out the details – which would require a wide network of collection points, ideally including supermarkets and a centrally adminstered system).
Their report found that it would cost a one-off £84 million to set up such a scheme. But local authorities around the UK could save around £160 million per year in avoided waste management costs. And as the return rate for containers is not 100%, the unclaimed deposits result in a net gain that can be used to fund its operation.
Belgium has a “producer responsibility scheme” in place which is fully funded by obligated industry. I’d love to see something similar implemented here in North Thanet. Could we roll out a local version?
Or are there any local artists that could build something really spectacular with all our thrown away plastic bottles, to make the case better than I have here? How about a giant plastic whale made out of bottles, to take to Downing Street? Or some kind of more creative community art installation to raise awareness?