What is single-use plastic? – Yellow Lids

What is single-use plastic?

Not all plastic is bad...

Let's set the scene; plastic is a convenient, versatile material. We don't want you to think we have anything against plastic itself - in fact in the majority of cases it is the number one material for the job. The health sector springs to mind as one of the most compelling arguments where plastic is used for medical equiment and supplies providing genuine life-saving benefits. Plastic has also revolutionised the way we store food providing affordable, clean packaging which helps meet the increasing demand for safe food. It's also flexible, inexpensive and lightweight compared to alternatives.

So what's the problem?
The problem is that, to date, the world has produced 9 billion tonnes of plastic and has only recycled 9% which begs the question, 'where is the other 91%'? Some of it will be in landfill and some will have been incinerated, but without a doubt, a significant proportion is finding its way into our oceans. In this linear economy, the manufacturers of plastic have no responsibility for their packaging after it's been consumed, the consequence of this is that we are now overwhelmed and production continues to increase year on year.

What is single-use plastic?
The single-use plastics most commonly found in the environment are cigarette butts, plastic drinks bottles and their caps, food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic [coffee] lids, straws and stirrers, other types of plastic bags, and foam take-away containers. All of the above are intended to be used only once then binned, more often than not, without any information on whether they are recyclable. To provide additional insight, of the 13 billion bottles used each year in the UK only 57% are recycled.

How can I play a part?
Reading this is a great start - simply appreciating the impact is a great foundation for individual change! As citizens, we need to break our addiction to plastic. Try rejecting single-use plastic bottles and swap for a reusable alternative, quit the coffee shop drive-thru opting to sit inside or make a coffee at home in a reusable flask, reject plastic straws and plastic bags when offered. Making a mental note of the worst offenders above will help keep them top of mind and you can also resist the urge to send them to landfill checking each item for instructions on how to recycle. 

What's next?
In future blogs, we'll provide news on the impact plastic has on the oceans and marine life, practical advice on finding plastic alternatives and activities you can get involved with to help clean up your local beaches and community spaces.

Keep rejecting single-use plastic.

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