Free from: Plastics

According to the City of Londonthe quantity of our ‘single-use plastic waste every year would fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls’, and a minimum of 450 years would be necessary to fully degrade a single plastic bottle. 

There is overwhelming evidence of the disastrous effects of our plastic consumption – such as the 269,000 tonnes of plastic pollution found globally. It is clear that we must start taking it more seriously.

In response to our devastatingly high levels of plastic consumption there are various initiatives which aim to encourage and help reduce single-use plastic consumption. One of these is the subsidies given to coffee buyers using their own reusable cups, instead of using a plastic-coated paper cup. Pret A Manger for example, offers a 50p discount off its hot drinks when you use your own cup, and here at King’s they offer a 20p discretion.

Plastic straws are the other big topic at the moment; you may have already noticed the arrival of paper straws in many cafes and bars across London. Plastic straws are particularly detrimental to the marine ecosystem, as they often fall out of the conveyor belt whilst being sorted (due to their small size) and therefore don’t get recycled – ending up in landfills or often the ocean. Consequently, bans on plastic straws in the UK are likely to occur by early 2019 – a switch that is occuring in many other cities globally.

A question to consider is the true environmental benefits of these initiatives if the majority of consumers don’t engage with them. A prime example is the keep-cup. If you own one already, how many times have you forgotten to bring it with you? I know I have on many occasions – the ease and convenience of single-use plastic is hard to be replaced. So, is the issue with consumers being lazy, or is it the lack of convenient and economically-viable plastic-free solutions? Probably both. Either way, we must make more of an effort to educate ourselves on these issues and understand that these solutions can make a huge impact on our consumption – at least for now, until we come up with a reasonable large-scale approach to this complex issue.

To find out more about plastic pollution start reading Sky News’ Ocean Rescue section or Lucy Siegle’s Turning the Tide on Plastic.