The Marine Conservation Society (MCS), the UK’s leading marine charity, is asking people to give up single-use plastic during June.
The challenge is to say goodbye to conveniences like pre-packed sandwiches, ready meals and plastic-bottled drinks for a day, a week or the whole month.
Last year almost 850 people took part in the MCS Plastic Challenge, and over 95% said they would continue reducing their plastic use after the challenge was over. The charity hopes even more people will take part in 2016.
Dr. Sue Kinsey, MCS Technical Specialist – Waste, said she was amazed at the lengths people had to go to find products that didn’t contain plastic of any kind. “By its very nature, this is a tricky challenge. It highlights how reliant we have become on plastic. Last year challengers were making their own bread, yogurt, cleaning and bathroom products like mouthwash and sugar scrubs so as not to use plastic containers that are used once, then thrown out.”
Last year, Challengers reported the hardest items to find plastic-free were dried goods like pasta, rice and pulses, along with milk and loo paper.
MCS says the amount of plastic litter on our beaches has increased by 180% in the last 20 years and has become a massive threat to marine wildlife. Plastic bags, bottles and tiny plastic pieces are regularly found in the stomachs of turtles and other sea creatures, and in some cases have caused their death from starvation or choking.
“Reducing plastic litter will certainly be an uphill climb – but if we can all cut down the amount we use, there’s no doubt our marine environment will be a healthier place” says Dr. Kinsey.
“We want to change people’s attitudes towards single-use plastics, and to encourage people to value plastic as a resource”
“We want to change people’s attitudes towards single-use plastics, and to encourage people to value plastic as a resource – not just buying stuff without any thought of the environmental impact. People taking on the Plastic Challenge are often shocked to find out just how much single-use plastic is used every day. Have a go at the Plastic Challenge, even if you can only manage a single day, and you’ll never look at your shopping in the same way again!”
Plastic plays a massive part in all of our lives, from brushing our teeth and showering, to plastic-packed products and cooking. For instance many of us have lunch on the go – and that highlights the extent of our plastic problem – boiled eggs in individual plastic containers, apple slices in plastic bags, pasties on a polystyrene tray wrapped in plastic, plus prepacked sandwiches and bottled drinks.
“Our clamour for convenience is bad news for our seas,” says Dr. Kinsey. “Plastic is durable and lightweight, but it’s these properties that allow it to remain in the marine environment for hundreds if not thousands of years. Plastics are among the most persistent synthetic materials in existence and are now a significant and extensive marine pollutant.”
The Plastic Challenge is sponsored by water filtration company, Brita: “BRITA UK are proud to be working alongside MCS to encourage people to reduce their use of plastics, in particular single-use plastic water bottles. These bottles play a significant role in contributing to the ever increasing landfill refuse sites as well as littering our beaches and oceans. More than ever, people need to do their part and make small changes that can have a positive impact on these issues. Using reusable filtered water bottles is a simple way to make a difference.” Becky Widdowson, Brita Marketing Director.
Register to take part in the Plastic Challenge at www.mcsuk.org/plasticchallenge MCS offers help and advice through an online community in the run up to the challenge and all through the month of June.
• Picture, Natasha Ewins/Marine Conservation Society