Combatting Plastic Waste in Our Ocean Environment

Emma Simpson, September 20, 2018

Throwaway Plastics

Over 12 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the world’s oceans every year. This is not surprising, as globally it is estimated that we are now producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic each year. A significant proportion of this is made up of single use plastics, which means that mind-blowing numbers of plastic drinks bottles, drinking straws, containers, plastic bags and coffee cups end up in the ocean, amongst all manner of other throwaway plastics.

Bag Tax

In past decades, the retail industry relied heavily on the provision of plastic carrier bags to customers. In order to reduce wasteful plastic consumption habits, many countries have adopted plastic bag charges; these include Australia, China, United Kingdom and Kenya. Since the ‘bag tax’ was introduced, 9 in 10 people in the UK now use their own reusable bags and there has been an 85% reduction in plastic bag usage. This is fantastic news for the world’s oceans.

Plastic Straws

More recently, several food and hospitality companies have started to remove plastic straws from the menu! Household names including Wetherspoons, Starbucks and Hilton Hotels are replacing their plastic straws with paper alternatives. McDonalds has also pledged to remove all plastic straws from their restaurants by 2021. KFC Singapore have gone one step further; as well as not providing plastic straws, they will not be using plastic caps on drinks cups for customers that eat in (caps will only be available for takeaway drinks). 

The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup foundation develops technologies to remove polluting plastics from the world’s oceans, as well as preventing plastics entering waters in the first place. The Ocean Cleanup has developed and launched a new giant floating tube which can float on the ocean’s surface and bend with the waves. There is a skirt underneath which helps to trap plastic, ready for it to be collected by a vessel and taken away for recycling. The clean-up system (“System 001”) was launched in September 2018 and is being towed to its destination by Maersk Launcher. Once the Maersk Launcher has delivered the system to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch it will remain there for several weeks, acting as an observation platform.

A.P. Moller – Maersk

Claus V. Hemmingsen (Vice CEO of A.P. Moller – Maersk and CEO of the Energy division) commented that Maersk are very pleased to be a part of the project, with the organisation being “committed to ensuring that the oceans remain a healthy environment for generations to come”. The Ocean Cleanup’s aim is to scale up its operations in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and hopes to reduce the amount of plastic in the area by 50% in just 5 years. Hopefully the changes being made by retailers and fast food outlets will assist with this endeavour, along with the assistance of large shipping companies like Maersk.

How we can help

There are a few steps we can personally take to reduce our plastic usage in every day life, including; buying loose fruit and veg instead of those wrapped in plastic, carrying reusable shopping bags and drink bottles and saying no to plastic straws and cutlery. It is also possible to buy reusable straws to keep in your bag. How will you contribute to reducing your personal plastic usage and waste? Please feel free to share your own tips and ideas on how to reduce plastic wastage at a personal level.

Written by Emma Simpson – Recruitment Consultant - Shipping, Logistics & Supply Chain at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd.

Posted in categories: Cargo, Imports, Shipping
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