There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea (Parker, 2015)
The Marine Conservation Society runs ‘The plastic challenge' throughout June each year to raise awareness about single-use plastic waste and its impact on the Earth, mainly our oceans and marine wildlife. According to its 2016 Great British Beach Clean report "over 69% of all litter on UK beaches discovered was plastic - with 449 plastic items per 100m of beaches cleaned" (Plastic challenge pack, 2017, p3).
Having previously taken part in local beach cleans, picking up multiple plastic ear buds, plastic straws, bottles/ bottle caps, crisp packets, balloons (the list goes on) and watching the documentary ‘A plastic ocean' (also mentioned in Lesley Henderson's June 2016 report for the Ecologist, ‘plastic Ocean, why the world should declare plastic ‘hazardous waste'') it's certainly made me more environmentally aware and driven me on a personal level to campaign for better conservation of our shores and oceans.
To give you an idea of how bad it's got, "over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century" ("A Plastic Ocean", 2016) and there are "studies showing that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic" ("Iconic seabird colony polluted...", Greenpeace UK, 2017).
This has inspired me to take on the MCS challenge and go single-use plastic free for a whole month, starting on Thursday (1st of June, 2017.)
Need motivating? Read this What Really Happens to the Plastic You Throw Away
What is the plastic challenge?
The aim of the challenge is to give up single-use plastics, whilst raising awareness about plastic pollution and raising funds to fight this cause
When does it run?
The challenge runs from the 1st - 30th June each year, though you don't have to do a whole month. You can practice plastic free for a day, a few days, a week etc.
You can practice the challenge wherever you are! You can register to take part via the MCS website, join their social media community @mcsuk and engage using the hashtag #plasticchallenge
Why should I take part?
Why not? By reducing your own/ your family plastic consumption you'll be lessening your waste and environmental impact. To give you a rough idea of how much plastic you use, you can check your plastic footprint via the Greenpeace plastic calculator here.
Tips for staying on track
The MCS has a plastic challenge tip swap page, which is quite useful. I'll also be publishing tips for reducing plastic waste here and on my own blog and will share how I've prepared myself for the challenge.
Join my journey
I hope I've inspired you to take part, and though it may seem a little daunting since it's so different to our customary habits (use plastic, throw in bin, magically disappears), it's something that I believe can be done.
I'll be posting weekly progress updates here, as well as on my own website ecowildchild.com. You can also contribute to my fundraising page here, or sign-up and download your plastic challenge pack from the MCS here.
Consumers generally decide what they want, when they want it and rarely take into consideration the environmental and social impact of their actions. This has become ‘the norm' in Western societies on a global scale and is seldom challenged, yet it is clear we are going to need a significant change in all of our behaviours to avoid increasing impact on our planet (Koch, Buch-Hansen, & Fritz, 2017).
And there is, as we all know, growing concern regarding the effects of overconsumption of our finite resources, the environmental impact of gross consumerism, the ideals of social responsibility and sustainability, and business ethics (McEachern and Carrigan, 2012).
Alanna resides on the south coast of the UK with her faithful cat Eli and enjoys cycling, reading a variety of literature (fiction, journals and articles) and writing her blog (http://www.ecowildchild.com). For the past four years, she has worked at a the University of Portsmouth and has been an active part of their environment network, which involved being one of the lead organisers for the Future Solent conference (2014) around the theme "Energising the Solent."
She has worked in outreach education to children; teaching them to make biodegradable plastics and paper with local wildflower seeds. Working with and around topics such as sustainability and the environment fuelled Alanna's passions for conservation, regeneration and protection for our planet. She hopes to go on to educate people through her own blog and contributing to the Ecologist about current issues in the fashion trade, and how to be more mindful when consuming and minimising waste