World Environment Day 2018 : 50 nations 'curbing plastic pollution'
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World Environment Day 2018 : 50 nations ‘curbing plastic pollution’

Fifty nations are now taking action to reduce plastic pollution, according to the biggest report so far from the UN.

Find out how we are encouraging our employees to play their part in protecting the environment.

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As we move towards becoming a fully fledged environmental restoration company, World Environment Day gives us the opportunity to highlight the practical things we all can do to help. : World Environment Day 2018

Millions of us watched the unflinching pictures of the impact plastic waste is having on the world’s oceans.

Sir David Attenborough and team highlighted the avoidable waste and single-use plastic in our seas that is damaging the environment.

Calum Jack, graduate environmental advisor, Sellafield Ltd said:

The sight of a sperm whale trying to eat a plastic bucket is a devastating one and made me take a look at what I can do to make changes and reduce my plastic use.

Simple things I’m doing are buying loose fruit and veg instead of packaged produce, using bars of soap and shampoo instead of those in plastic containers, putting my sandwiches in a Tupperware container instead of wrapping them in cling film, getting my milk delivered in reusable glass bottles as opposed to buying plastic bottles, no longer using disposable razors.

And the call is for us all to consider our impact on the environment for this year’s World Environment Day (5 June) and World Ocean Day (8 June) as the theme for 2018 is beating plastic pollution.

There are more than 10,000 employees working directly for Sellafield, thousands more as contractors and in our supply chain. Just each of us making a small difference could have a huge impact.

We have become over reliant on single-use or disposable plastic with severe environmental consequences.

Did you know?

  • around the world 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute
  • 500 billion disposable plastic bags are used worldwide every year
  • 50% of the plastic we use is single use

World Oceans Day aims for us to work together to protect and conserve our shared oceans. The theme of plastic pollution continues:

  • every year up to 13 million tons of plastic leak into our oceans
  • the plastic that ends up in the oceans can circle the Earth four times in a single year and it can persist for up to 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates
  • plastic also makes its way into our water supply and thus into our bodies.

The challenge is on for us all to do something to help take care of the environment. It can be at a local, national or global level; and be a team effort or solo contribution.

What can you do?

Here are some ideas

  • reduce your use of single-use plastics: Refuse any single-use plastics that you don’t need such as bags, straws, cutlery, and cups. Instead take with you reusable versions of those products when possible.
  • recycle: Use the recycling bins provided at work and the council provided recycling boxes to segregate and recycle waste at home
  • participate: Consider helping with organised litter picks or beach clean ups
  • spread the word: Stay informed on environment issues and challenge others to be a part of the solution

It reveals that the Galapagos will ban single-use plastics, Sri Lanka will ban styrofoam and China is insisting on biodegradable bags.

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But the authors warn that far more needs to be done to reduce the vast flow of plastic into rivers and oceans.

What’s more, they say, good policies to curb plastic waste in many nations have failed because of poor enforcement.

Action against plastic waste has many drivers across the world. In the UK it has been stimulated by media coverage.

In many developing countries, plastic bags are causing floods by blocking drains, or they’re being eaten by cattle.

The report says policies to combat plastic waste have had mixed results. In Cameroon, plastic bags are banned and households are paid for every kilo of plastic waste they collect, but still plastic bags are being smuggled in.

In several countries, rules on plastic exist but are poorly enforced.

The report presents an A-Z of 35 potential bio substitutes for plastic. It runs from Abaca hemp (from the inedible banana Musa textilis) to Zein (from a maize protein).

The list includes rabbit fur, sea grass and foam made with fungus. It mentions QMilch, a firm that create casein textile fibres from waste milk.

It also highlights Piñatex, a plastic alternative made from pineapple leaves.

Some policy-makers, though, are wary about hyping the potential of bio alternatives.

Early optimism by some environmentalists about biofuels backfired when rainforests were felled to grow palm oil to fuel cars.

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said: “The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable – with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution. Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”

The report says levies and bans – where properly planned and enforced – have been among the most effective strategies to curb plastic waste.

But the authors also cite a fundamental need for broader cooperation from business, including obliging plastic producers to take responsibility and offering incentives to stimulate more recycling.

National actions include

  • Botswana – retailers charged but no enforcement and controls “failed”.
  • Eritrea – ban on plastic bags and dramatic decrease in drain blockage
  • Gambia – ban on plastic bags, but “reappearance after political impasse”
  • Morocco – bags banned – 421 tonnes of them seized in one year, virtually replaced by fabric
  • Bangladesh – ban on bags but lack of enforcement
  • China – was using three billion bags a year pre-2008. Now there is a ban on thin bags, use decreased 60-80% in supermarkets but not in markets.
  • Vietnam – bags are taxed but still widely used. Government considering increasing tax five times
  • Ireland – tax led to 90% fall in consumption
  • Kenya – cows ingested an average of 2.5 bags in their lifetimes. Now there’s a total ban, and fines and a four-year jail term for making, importing or using them

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