Continuing my line of posts on personal positive changes, here’s a very simple thing you can do for the environment. Stop using plastic bags. Where carbon chokes our atmosphere, plastic chokes the planet – including the great oceans, which we rely on for so much, yet fail to take care of. As I mentioned in my ‘Enough’s Enough’ post, plastic carrier bags kill all sorts of creatures – including whales. A couple of weeks ago a video, taken in Australia, was posted to YouTube, showing a Bryde’s whale taking its last, painful breaths, writhing in pain. Nothing could be done for it by the marine experts who attended the site, but when they did an autopsy on the whale they found its cause of death had been plastic bags. Laid out on the ground, the bags, which had been tightly packed into the whale’s stomach, covered 6 square meters.
While this story may appear singularly shocking, the true scale of deaths caused by plastics in our seas is enormous. An article written for Care2 last week, suggests that up to 1.5 million marine mammals are killed by plastic per year, as well a million sea birds. These numbers are appalling, but a brief stroll along a beach will confirm their veracity. Even our cleaner beaches are strewn with plastics. During the Great Dorset Beach clean this year, I made a point of collecting, and counting, abandoned fishing lines along what was a relatively clean area of beach. Although they can be hard to spot I counted over 40 by the end of an hour. My friend, who is a ranger for The Dorset Wildlife Trust, was not surprised. Yet, these types of plastics, abandoned so wantonly along the beach, are also deadly to marine life that might get tangled in it, or mistakenly eat it.
Keeping in mind my mission to suggest small efforts that can be made for positive change for the environment then, I set the challenge of abandoning the use of plastic bags. Although our use of them may be prolific, they are not necessary. Not long ago we did not have plastics, and had to shop using reusable material bags, or containers made out of paper. Cutting the use of plastic bags out of our lifestyles requires only a small amount of forward planning that can easily be done. As Care2 points out, China has completely banned plastic bags, as has the city of San Francisco. While the major supermarkets in the UK seem unwilling to take as unpopular step as that of charging for plastic bags, we can personally boycott them ourselves, sending the supermarkets a message, while at the same time reducing the plastic homicide of the seas.