Tuesday, 20 April 2010 Taking action – spreading the word

Apr 21 2010

On Sunday my wife and New Forest runner will run London marathon to promote Banning the Bag – plastic consumable bags in Lymington.

Plastics collected North Atlantic 2010 – photo Maarten Vanden Eynde

The project came about from my work earlier this year when I spend six weeks at sea in the North Atlantic with the charitable foundation Pangaea Explorations with US based scientists from the 5 Gyres project working with the Algalita Research Foundation. The founder of Algalita Dr Charles Moore first discovered the North Pacific ‘garbage patch’ in 1997, we were out to find the North Atlantic equivalent.

Ocean currents and weather systems rotate creating a vortex, sucking in floating debris and trapping it there. Plastics are present in alarming quantities thousands of miles from land, plastics from the beginning of the plastics era – they do not bio-degrade, only photo-degrade breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Pioneered in the 1950’s they are a versatile and useful product that we rely on in our daily lives, the 80’s were defined by our consumption of consumables and the single use era was upon us. Currently in the UK each person uses up to 300 single use carrier bags annually for an average of up to 20 minutes, they are then disposed of in various ways. Only 0.5% are recycled. Globally they have become a blight known as ‘Witches knickers’, ‘White pollution’, ‘Roadside daisies’ and even the ‘National flower’. Fortunately to my pleasant surprise many nations unlike the UK where we have 29 – 46 bags per km of beach have taken action to ban them.

France, Germany, Belgium, China, Taiwan, Italy, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Japan, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Bhutan to name a few have all taken action to either outright ban the plastic bag, or levy a charge for them, or provide a biodegradable alternative. So why have we not done this nationally in the UK? – we are ‘thinking’ about it.

Many towns throughout the UK have taken action starting with Modbury in Devon in 2007 … surely it is time we did the same. We can take the simple step to ban single use plastic bags in Lymington. It will not single handedly save the planet but it is a small contribution to make us stop and think about our actions and protect the environment.

Mid ocean we saw and collected huge quantities of plastics, bottle tops, golf balls, bags, boxes as well as plastic particles in every sample that we took, from the Caribbean via Bermuda to the Azores. We found surface feeding fish with plastic in their stomachs and fish living inside plastic containers mid ocean, plastics with teeth marks, tiny teeth marks. Globally thousands of mammals and seabirds die from ingesting plastics, the bag being the main culprit.