A few weeks ago – on the 8th of June, it was World Ocean Day. And despite Madrid not having a sea or an ocean, our country does. Plus, we all like water. We drink it, we bathe in it, we eat from it. Some even want to be water. So why not share a couple of thoughts in this ZeroWasteMadrid mind…
Spain! The Iberian peninsula with nearly 5.000 km of coastal areas – some so beautiful that you want to take them with you wherever you go; others marked by disorderly tourism or overdosed on cement and brick – but nonetheless a coast surrounded by fresh salty water, home to multiple sea fauna and vegetation which are part of this planet.
Plastics! ..and much more so, single-use-plastics! 10 main culprits are responsible for 70% of maritime waste: drink bottles; food containers; cups & lids for beverages; balloons & balloon sticks; cutlery, plates, straws & stirrers; cotton buds; wet wipes and sanitary applications; crisp packets / sweet wrappers; plastic bags; and cigarette butts. This is us more often than we’d like.
Join the two and you end up with a grim picture. Then move to a higher bird’s eye view and watch a European continent, gradually but surely, turning its liquid back yard into waste.
But sometimes, there’s a glimmer of hope and some good actions are taken in the right direction. The E.U. appears to be doing something in respect. A Brussels directive approved in early 2018 now pushes its member countries to ban and/or reduce the guilty 10 single-use-plastics, (which all too much of society use on a regular basis), by 2020-2025.
The first measure launched in Spain on July 1st bans shops from giving free plastic bags to its customers. They will now have to pay between 5 – 15 cents per plastic bag. There are some exceptions where certain ones are allowed for sanitary reasons, for example – but it’s a step in a right direction, though not enough. And we can only hope more and stricter measures to control and solve this problem are launched in the next couple of years.
But back to those guilty 10 single-use-plastics that need to go. We’ve used them today, or yesterday, or last week – or our families & friends have, or the places in which we work do so, or the shops in which we buy offer them. And after they’re used, an immense number of the plastic leftovers go into our oceans (studies estimate up to 14 million tonnes of plastic every year), where they distastefully float and end messing up those who live in that habitat.
Plastics will either be eaten by fish or they will kill the fish. Those fish that eat the plastics end up working their way to our dinner plates. Studies show 25% of the fish we find in fish markets have plastic in their guts in the form of micro-fibres and/or plastic related pollutants. As for the fish that end up with the fate of a plastic death, also add other incredible sea fauna to the list, such as dolphins, whales, seagulls and turtles.
So what can we do? We need to adopt a more responsible use, think circular (not linear a.k.a. single use), modify habits and behaviors and aim to reach a free single-use-plastic nirvana as soon as we can. And through it, we’ll have cleaner oceans and plastic free fish.
In the sixties we launched a rocket and landed on the moon. That was a difficult thing to achieve ..there was space, a metal box, the moon and then making it back in one piece. A free single-use-plastic world, in essence, should be an easier task than the moon mission – because we have the tools and ingenuity to achieve it – but it’s also much harder. All of us (as in, not a bunch of scientists, but ALL the humans!) are actively involved in this mission.
You know them. If not, try them. If you know other ones, share them. These are the ones that come to mind right now:
- Quit single-use-plastics. Use other things instead. Use tote bags when going shopping. Use your own coffee mugs at your work canteen or local coffeeshop, instead of paper cups with plastic lids. Use reusable water bottles.
- Buy products without plastic packaging. Again tote bags. Re-stock in shops that sell un-packed food. Use glass jars or tupperwares for food storage.
- Avoid products with microbeads. These are tiny manufactured solid plastic particles used in exfoliating personal care products, toothpastes and in biomedical and health-science research. They are washed down the drain and eaten by a variety of wildlife, from small fish, amphibians and turtles to birds and larger mammals, who mistake microbeads for their food source. So, buy microbead free toothpaste or make your own. Same goes for personal care products.
- Don’t buy disposables. So, back to your coffee mugs and reusable water bottles. And encourage your work, personal and social environment to do then same.
- Participate (or organize, if they don’t exist in your area) in cleanups. Always pick up any plastic you see on the beach or in the water and throw it in the trash or recyclable bin.
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