Someone else's job - isn't it?
Updated: Jun 11
When Justin Hofman showed the world an image of a seahorse clinging to a plastic cotton bud, the world went into denial.
Some people tried to make excuses. They tried to claim it was fake, photoshopped, not real, a lie, an exaggeration.
People didn't want to believe it.
But everyone knew it was real. So real in fact, he took lots of images that day. He simply selected the best one.
“It’s a photo that I wish didn’t exist..." he said. Who can blame him?
Last week, in October 2020, England announced a ban on
plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds.
But does it go far enough?
I organised my first beach clean in 2011 and was shocked that, even after a few hours, most people on the beach hadn't moved. There was so much plastic litter that it took us all day in the sweltering heat to remove it from 100 metres of beach.
When I set up my own business, WetWellies Caving, way back in 2012, I promised from the outset that my business would be as green and environmentally friendly as it could be.
We do all our bookings electronically or by phone - we never post out paper or spammy leaflets. We re-use drinks pouches and reduce single use plastics as much as possible. We encourage our cavers to pick up litter both underground and on the way to and from the caves.
But given that WetWellies pretty much works from home, I thought I'd share with you a few things we do about the house to make a small difference.
Here in the WetWellies household we buy our kitchen bin liners and compost bin liners from BigGreenSmile.com. These are completely compostable and strong enough to take our household waste and leftovers.
We recycle anything that the local council will take away and run anything else up to the local recycling depot. A handy kitchen basket acts as a collecting vessel before we sort it into the recycling buckets outside.
We have lots of re-usable 'bags for life' and try to avoid single use plastic bags.
We have re-fillable bottles of ecover washing up liquid and every couple of months we get re-fills at the local organic supermarket in Shepton Mallet.
Buying veg at the supermarket is almost impossible without bringing home single use plastic. We try to pick up unwrapped vegetables and this I made easier by using our farm shop 1 mile away. Tesco already got rid of their own brand of plastic cotton buds and replaced with paper.
Sadly, many types still come in single use plastic wrapping. Another example of a gesture that only goes half way.
A few years ago I was given 'The Self Sufficient-ish Bible' which is full of great ideas to try to do things in a better way for the environment without having to go to extremes. It offers realistic and achievable small changes for normal, busy people.
And finally, we compost any food scraps and offcuts which go into a fully compostable bag which we have trained the local recycling crew to take as well.
Examples of super easy swaps I have made to reduce single use.
I sat down and worked out, roughly, how much single use plastic use I have used in my lifetime.
It is extremely difficult to work out, so I had a go at just working out, approximately, how many shampoo bottles I have got through as an adult.
I moved away from home and lived independently from the age of 16, so I thought I'd start there.
I have always had long hair and get through about one bottle of shampoo every 3 weeks. So:
I used about 17 shampoo bottles a year.
That's 408 single use bottles of shampoo since I was 16.
ONLY shampoo. You can double that figure for conditioner bottles.
Since 2018 I have been using shampoo and conditioner bars with no plastic packaging whatsoever. The downside is that they are more expensive and this is a problem. Single use plastic is cheap. Non Plastic products have a low production volume, lower demand and thus, are dearer.
We need to make non plastic options affordable and even cheaper, before we can get everyone onboard with ditching single use plastic.
Now, I work offshore in the oil and gas industry - but before you shout 'hypocrite' from the rooftops, I should point out that I am a medic. Everyone needs a medic and in my professional role, I do not discriminate between my patients.
I'm a Paramedic, actually and also an offshore diver medic. I look after divers in sat chambers and quite often their jobs are repairing leaks, investigating any break in containment and often making oil and gas rigs last longer so that the fulfill their worth before newer ones are built.
The vessel we work on has a very low carbon footprint and everything gets recycled. Nothing gets dumped in the sea - the fines are horrendous and the company looks bad. We even make water on board and there are recycling separation bins everywhere.
Working offshore does give me an insight into an industry not everyone has access to, plus it gives me enough spare time to support my voluntary work as trustee, secretary, photographer, instructor and general dogsbody for the ocean clean up charity, Ghost Fishing UK.
Even though my background is in medicine, I do enjoy learning about the oceans and educating myself more and more about the threats to our blue planet.
I've enjoyed some excellent (and mostly free) online learning to keep the grey matter ticking over.
Why not give it a go?
For more information on Ghost Fishing UK, check out the Marine Conservation Society's latest magazine. You can join for only £3.50 a month to help protect our oceans.
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