We’re awash with plastics, choking our seas, killing our wildlife, polluting our water and entering our food chain. The problem of plastics in the (sea) food chain is huge. A report earlier this year discovered eight million tonnes of waste plastic ends up in the sea each year. That’s why the Scottish Government announcement to create a Plastic Bottle Return Scheme is a huge breakthrough and testimony to the work of Greenpeace, Have You Got the Bottle, the Marine Conservation Society and others.

The Scottish Government announced yesterday it will introduce a Deposit and Return Scheme for drinks packaging, and hold an international conference focusing on plastics waste in the oceans, together with a new £0.5m beach clean up fund.

The problem – like most environmental issues – is that we are all culpable. We are all complicit in the system of consumption and waste that is destroying our home.

A report earlier this year found:

“Throughout the first half of the 20th century, innovations came thick (and thin) and fast – polystyrene, polyester, PVC, nylon. Soon, they were an inextricable part of everyday life. And then, in 1950, that scourge of the sea arrived: the throwaway polythene bag. In that decade, annual global plastic production reached 5m tonnes; by 2014, it stood at 311m tonnes – shockingly, over 40% of it for single-use packing. Now, plastic’s durability looks less of a boon than it once did. A study in Science Magazine in 2015 estimated that around 8m tonnes of plastic go into the sea each year. And, last year, a report for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (launched in 2010 by the former round-the-world sailor to promote a more circular economy) estimated that, by 2050, the volume of accumulated plastics in the oceans will be greater than that of fish.”

This summer an all-woman crew sailed around Britain in the first continuous plastic sampling visiting Arran Stornoway and Edinburgh to highlight the issue aboard a 72ft challenge yacht Sea Dragon.

“I live by the sea, and every day I see what the waves have brought in – rope, balloons, polystyrene bits, torn bags, cotton bud plastic middles by the million. Nurdles – pre-production plastic particles – are there too, if I get down into the sand to look,” said Arran resident and eXXpedition Round Britain co-mission leader Sue Weaver.

“Every torn fragment of plastic represents terrible danger to the wildlife around our shores. And yet, I ask how can I avoid being part of this polluting of the oceans? Avoiding all single use plastic in everyday life is practically impossible. This is why we are campaigning for changes in policy, at every level – in choosing what we make packaging out of, and what we really need to package, as well as choosing to put deposits on plastic bottles.”

Commenting on Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement today that Scotland will introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, Willie Mackenzie, oceans expert at Greenpeace UK, said:

“Governments are waking up to the frightening scale of ocean plastic pollution and it’s brilliant to see Scotland leading the way in helping to tackle it. On Greenpeace’s recent research expedition around remote Scottish coastlines, plastic bottles and packaging were simply everywhere. A staggering 16 million plastic bottles end up in the environment every day in the UK and deposit return schemes are a great way to make sure more of them are collected and reused.”

‘Today’s announcement by the First Minister is a massive step in stopping plastic pollution, and the result of tireless campaigning by many groups and individuals. With businesses and an overwhelming majority of the public in favour of deposit schemes, the Scottish Government now has a mandate to implement as robust a system as possible to help reduce plastic pollution. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the rest of the UK follows suit.

‘Alongside a deposit return scheme, major soft drinks companies like Coca-Cola – who backed deposit return schemes after being exposed by Greenpeace for lobbying against them – need to seriously rethink their business models. Creating over 100 billion single-use plastic bottles a year is the root of the problem. Drastically reducing their plastic footprint is the only solution. Throwaway plastic causes ocean pollution, and the sooner companies face up to that, the quicker we’ll stem the plastic tide.”

A new report out just today outlines the scale of the problem: “Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres.”

This isn’t some soft-consewrvation beach-clean-up issue. This is about the contamination of our food and water.

Dr Dixon of Friends of the Earth Scotland commented:

“Just like the plastic bag charge, a Deposit and Return Scheme will transform attitudes to packaging waste. Cracking down on the tonnes of discarded plastic which litter our beaches will be welcomed by coastal communities and tourists alike, and will help wildlife avoid major hazards to their health.”

The issue now is in what the money raised should be put towards and whether this can mark a sea-change against pollution, waste and consumption in our throw-away society.

This allows you to be the change.


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