Earth Day aims to raise awareness for various environmental causes every year, reaching amazing targets in reducing harmful impacts on the environment. According to the Earth Day website, approximately 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, but only 10% of that is recycled. That means that 270 million tonnes of plastic are wasted every year! This waste is put into landfill or ends up in woodlands or the ocean as litter, causing a massive impact on wildlife, as their lives become endangered as they end up eating the harmful plastics.
By raising awareness of these issues, Earth Day has the potential to reduce the amount of plastic waste that isn’t being recycled and as a result, protect our natural wildlife. Currently, 1 billion people are involved in this movement across 195 countries, and while these figures are brilliant, it's not enough. If there is something that you can do to reduce your levels of plastic waste, then now is the time to take action.
What can you do to help?
While this is obviously a worthwhile cause, it can sometimes be hard to know what you can be doing to help. Here are a few tips of small changes you can make that will have a positive impact on our planet both now and for future generations...
1. Create your 'Own act of Green'
This is a part of the campaign where you can pledge what you will do to make a change. It doesn’t even have to be specific to this year’s cause to reduce plastic waste (although that would still be good). Their website has different pledges other people have made to inspire you, especially if you don’t know what action you will take. Make your pledge at earthday.org and encourage your friends to do the same.
2. Make an effort to recycle ALL recyclable plastics
We’ve all been there; forgetting which recycling bin is for what and just putting it all in the same black bin bag ready to be collected, but this is the worst thing you can do! Your local town council's website should detail their recycling strategy, and how to recycle different materials. The average family throws away 40kg of plastic every year that could be recycled. If every household made a concerted effort to recycle just some of that waste properly, this would see a huge reduction in plastic waste. Find out more about the different types of plastics with this handy guide.
3. Avoid plastic that you know will go into landfill
According to Plastic Free UK, plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill. However, everyone can make small changes to reduce the amount of plastic that is not recycled. A change that is becoming widely recognised is avoiding single-use plastic straws or coffee cups. You can buy paper/non-plastic straws and reusable flasks that you can take to your local coffee shop - a lot of places are even offering discounts for those bringing in their own cups.
4. Remember to take your shopping bags
According to the UK government website, in 2014, 61,000 tonnes of plastic bags were given away to customers, the majority of which would have gone to a landfill. It's easy to forget to take a bag, especially on an impromptu trip to the supermarket, but buying plastic bags every time you shop has a negative impact on the environment (and your bank balance). With the 5p plastic bag charge well-under way, most people are deterred by that extra cost, but we still have a long way to go. Make a pledge to yourself that you will always try to carry a bag, but if you forget, you will pay for a 'bag for life' that you will actually re-use.
We don't need an excuse to save the world, but Earth Day provides a way for us to truly reflect on our personal environmental impact.
See Earth Day's website for more and be kind to the planet this Sunday.