Thursday 22 December 2011

Midway - the land of plastic

Midway is one of the most remote islands on earth, populated by amazing birds, including albatrosses. But Midway is in crisis, due to the plastic waste that sits in the Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean. Albatrosses that nest on the island now routinely collect plastic rubbish to feed their chicks, many of whom die, their stomachs full of plastic.

It's a tragic story and one that points up the global effects of our addiction to plastic (and our inability to re-use it or to dispose of it safely).

Photographer and film maker Chris Jordan and his team visited Midway to film the heartbreaking story of what plastic pollution is doing to the island and its wildlife. You can watch a trailer of the film here and read more about the project here. The film is still in production but looks as though it will be unmissable when it's released.

There are many ways you can reduce your plastic use, for example:

1) refuse plastic carrier bags - carry a reusable bag with you (and incidentally avoid picking up loads of reusable bags, as it takes as much energy to make every reusable bag as to make about 50 plastic bags. Once you've got three or four reusable bags make sure you carry them with you and use them all the time)

2) avoid products wrapped in plastic or made from plastic

3) Don't buy bottled water - carry a reusable water bottle with you. Give Me Tap is a project that started in Manchester and is spreading across England. They have established a network of pubs and cafes that will let you refill your water bottle from their taps. Don't be tempted to buy a bottle of water and reuse that, as the plastic in bottles can leach into the water and then into your digestive system.

4) Pick litter while you're out walking in the countryside. Ironically, the best container to put the collected litter in is a plastic bag, but often you will find stray plastic bags along the path that you can use in this way.

5) Make art out of plastic waste! Olympia Dumpster Diver's blog is full of ideas for making arts and crafts out of plastic and other waste material. Do make sure that you are using waste plastic for your art though, buying new plastic items to make artworks would be missing the point...

3) join in campaigns for example to ban the plastic bag in your city, county, state or nation. For example, in Edinburgh there is Ban Plastic Bags Edinburgh.

4) become informed! There are lots of good resources out there. One of my favourite anti-plastic blogs is My Plastic Free Life (formerly Fake Plastic Fish). There are also a number of organisations concerned with reducing plastic use, such as the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

What are your top tips to reduce plastic use, especially during the festive season?

As ever, text in red contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.


Nia said...

If you pack a lunch, get a Bento box or similar container.

In kitchen storage, use as many reusable containers as possible. There are some risks in the use of Tupperware, especially if used to reheat, but considering most of my mother's plastic containers are about 20 years old, it's always going to be better than plastic wrap and flimsier containers.

Buy things in bigger containers and repack if necessary. A big tub of icecream has less plastic than for 1/4 sized ones.

Sarah said...

Buy household products that can be refilled instead of buying new ones.

Wash and reuse any plastic food bags you have.

Inform yourself about peak oil and start weaning yourself off oil (and thus plastics) - join/start a local transition group

Cuby said...

I already try really hard and have done for years to avoid anything plastic as it is material which is really useful but also has so many negatives long term which you have highlighted here.Love the message it is so important.Give me tap is a new one to me - great idea.

The Weaver of Grass said...

How I avoid plastic bags at the supermarket Juliet is that I have three boxes in the boot of my car. I put all my purchases back into my trolley and then sort them and unload them into the three boxes - makes life much easier.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Nia - Good advice about lunch containers. I posted my reusable sandwich bag a while ago! Good advice about buying in bulk too as long as you don't end up buying more than you can use...
Sarah - good advice about household products, but you also need shops that can refill (or buy refills online I guess) (I always get my Ecover products refilled but not many shops here offer the service). Good advice too about peak oil and Transition groups.
Cuby - yes i like Give Me Tap too, great idea!
Weaver - sounds good!

Anonymous said...

I really hope Give Me Tap takes off! Does anyone know anywhere in Edinburgh where you can refill a water bottle? Trying to carry enough water when I'm out for the whole day is a pain.

Something that totally horrified me when I read 'The World Without Us' was the use of tiny plastic beads in face scrubs and household products. Way to fill our oceans with crap that you can't even filter out! So one small change I've made is to change to an exfoliant that uses natural scrubby bits, not polypropylene.

EG CameraGirl said...

Hmm. I knew about the floating garbage but knew NOTHING about what's happening to the wildlife on Midway. Plastic sure has become a major problem!

shoreacres said...

I do try to be careful of the plastic bag business, but they're extremely helpful at work. I use them, for example, to collect varnish shavings when I'm stripping a boat, rather than letting them fall into the water.

Cardboard boxes sometimes work, but when I'm working from a float, I need something I can hang. And one bag can be reused and reused.

If anyone has a good idea about disposing of kitty litter, I wouldn't mind that, either. I use scoopable litter and plastic bags, because our complex's regulations require litter to be in sealed bags when placed in the trash. I haven't found an option for that.

One change I have made is to watch packaging for food like microwave dinners. They're convenient, but those plastic trays always are just dumped. I'm trying to do much more from-scratch cooking, freezing portions myself and avoiding pre-packaged food.

RG said...

Seattle just banned single-use plastic bags. We are all awaiting the remnants from the Japan Tsunami any day now here. Much of that will end up in the patch or on Midway.

Magyar said...

__I hate plastic bags, packages, bottles and all! Some plastics are a boon.
__Best Christmas... to you and yours. _m

Kay said...

I saw a PBS documentary that showed the piles of plastic on Midway..what a shame. My Dad was there in WWII as a Marine..wish I could ask him what it was like before the plastic invasion.

Michelle May-The Raspberry Rabbits said...

Washington State here in the US is not allowing plastic shopping bags anymore. I think it's wonderful.
It's disturbing to see how many water bottles the folks here in the US use.