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Planet vs Plastic for Earth Day!

Plastic is everywhere. It's cheap, durable and convenient, and is used in a huge variety of items including packaging, clothing and medical supplies. Plastic has many benefits but its convenience comes at a steep cost to the environment.

We produce over 400 million tonnes of plastic worldwide every year. Much of this plastic is not recycled at the end of its lifespan.  Discarded plastic items find their way into forests, rivers, oceans, and landfills, where they persist for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Up to 200 million tonnes of plastic are thought to be in our oceans alone, and some scientists estimate the plastic pollution load on terrestrial ecosystems such as forests could be four times worse. Plastic contamination within forests may affect soil composition, soil-water dynamics, microbial life and plant growth. 

Plastic pollution has become a global crisis, wreaking havoc on ecosystems and wildlife but there are steps we can take to reduce our plastic use and protect our planet. This Earth Day we are busting three myths about plastic, to help you live a more informed and environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Myth 1: Recycling is the ultimate solution to managing plastic waste.

You’ve probably been told that recycling is one of the best things you can do to reduce your impact on the planet. In reality, only 9% of all plastic ever created has been recycled. While recycling rates are improving in many countries, issues with present-day plastic recycling mean the amount of new plastic entering recycling streams remains low. 

There are many different types of plastic and not all of them can be recycled. Even those that can, often end up in landfills due to insufficient recycling infrastructure or contamination. Adding the wrong items to your recycling bin, or including items with food or product residue could mean your entire batch gets rejected. This is due to the cost and difficulty of sorting mixed recycling and removing incorrect items. 

Recycling is not the perfect solution to our plastic problem, but it can help. Take some time to learn about your curbside recycling from your local council or district website and make sure you only place items in the bin that will be recycled. 

Myth 2: Bioplastics and compostable plastics are safe for the environment.

The emergence of bio-based, biodegradable and compostable plastics has sparked hope for combating plastic pollution. But these terms can be confusing leaving consumers unsure about the impact of their plastic choices.

Bioplastics are plastics made fully or partially from plant fibres. The term bioplastics is often confused with biodegradable leading people to believe that these plastics will break down naturally if left in the environment. In reality, bioplastic items may persist in the environment for 100s of years.

Some bioplastics have been designed to be compostable and will fully decompose when under the right conditions. Unfortunately, these conditions are not easily achieved and most compostable bioplastics will only fully break down in industrial composters, not in home compost heaps. Many towns and cities do not have the infrastructure to process compostable plastics properly and if they make their way into the environment as litter, they can be just as harmful to wildlife as conventional plastics. 

Make sure you do your research when using bioplastics. If they are compostable, it's best to check if you can add them to your food waste bin for collection, or drop them off at a dedicated industrial composting collection point. If they are recyclable, make sure you add them to the correct waste stream for recycling. 

Myth 3: The plastic pollution problem is so big, I can’t do anything about it. 

When faced with the staggering statistics on plastic, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. But everyone has the power to take action against plastic. Check out our tips below and see which ones you could work into your lifestyle. 

  • Reduce your plastic packaging. Look for plastic-free produce in your food shop, support businesses that use minimal packaging and buy in bulk if you can, to reduce overall plastic use. 

  • Choose alternative materials. Forests offer alternatives to plastic through wood and wood-based products. If you choose these options ensure they are sustainably sourced and protect the forests they come from. 

  • Plan ahead. If you’re going out, remember to bring along items you may need such as reusable bags, refillable water bottles and cutlery to reduce your reliance on single-use plastics. 

  • Repurpose what you have. When you have finished with a plastic item, consider if you could repurpose it. Plastic fruit punnets make great drawer dividers and plastic-lined cartons can be turned into plant pots.

  • Use your voice. Tell your friends and family what you’ve learnt about the plastic problem and help them to make changes too. If you see something that needs to change in your community, write to your local officials or business leaders to demand change for the benefit of the environment. 

Whatever you choose to do this Earth Day, we hope this blog has inspired you to think a little more about the plastic in your life and how you can reduce your impact on our forests, soils and oceans.


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