8–12 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into our oceans each year. Today, one in three fish caught in the English Channel contains pieces of plastic and UN Oceans Chief Lisa Svensson describes the rising tide of plastic waste in the ocean as a ‘planetary crisis’. And yet virgin plastic production continues to rise and is predicted to increase 40% over the next 10 years.

How WWT are helping

WWT, as a wetland conservation charity, has already taken steps to reduce our use of single use plastics. We now:

  • Provide all takeaway food and drink in compostable packaging
  • Provide free tap water and offer to refill bottles
  • Send our membership magazine, Waterlife, in a compostable starch wrapper
  • Only sell drinks in recyclable glass bottles or cans
  • Provide only paper straws
  • Provide incentives for visitors to use and purchase reusable hot drink mugs
  • Work with some of our product suppliers to look for plastic free packaging alternatives or compostable packaging
  • Use cotton business card holders instead of plastic

Lucy Smith, WWT’s Sustainability Manager said:

“Wetlands are the Earth’s last line of natural defence between man-made pollution and our rivers, seas and oceans. Sadly many wetlands have been drained or destroyed over the past few centuries, leaving our oceans more exposed than ever, and putting more pressure on our remaining marshes, swamps and shallow seas.

“WWT’s vision is for world where healthy wetlands help and enrich society, so we’re committed to minimising the use of disposable plastics in our visitor centres and in our day to day business. We’re delighted to announce that we’ve managed to implement many changes already and will be looking for other opportunities across our Trading and wider operations.”

Why reducing our plastic usage matters

  • The UK uses 13 billion plastic bottles each year, around half (7.7 billion) of which are not recycled.
  • Plastic bottles make up a third of all plastic pollution in the sea, and are a growing litter problem on UK beaches - around 700,000 plastic bottles are littered in the UK every day.
  • Plastic bottles take over 450 years to disintegrate (an estimated million years if they’re in a landfill), and when they do disintegrate, release toxic chemicals into the environment.
  • The carbon footprint of bottled water is over 1000 times that of tap water because of the packaging and transportation impacts.
  • A 2013 study that estimated it took 1.39 litres of water to produce 1 litre of packaged water.
  • Producing plastic bottles each year releases more greenhouse gas emissions than over a million cars on the road.
  • Britain discards 2.5 billion coffee cups every single year, with just 1% ending up getting recycled because most coffee cups have a coating that cannot be readily recycled.
  • At present, two-thirds of all plastic packaging in Britain ends up being landfilled or burned. This is because of economical or technical reasons, for example, where complex plastic and film wrappings contaminate the recycling stream and reduce its resale value.
  • But 65% recycling target for plastic packaging is achievable by 2025 and brings environmental, societal and economic benefits – and the 65% figure could be increased if packaging was better designed for recyclability.
  • Substitution of virgin with recycled plastics saves 80% of carbon emissions, and could create over 115,000 jobs and an extra one billion euros in economic benefits. Buy recycled!

There are also things that we can all do and encourage others to do to reduce our reliance on single use plastics.

How you can help reduce plastic pollution

  • Use a refillable water bottle for water and soft drinks
  • Use a travel mug for hot drinks on the go
  • Use Tupperware for lunches rather than disposable bags and cling film
  • Say no to plastic straws and disposable cutlery
  • Look for plastic-free alternatives to plastic cotton buds
  • Consider plastic free sanitary and nappy products including reusable items or biodegradable products
  • Get your milk delivered in reusable glass bottles
  • Carry a bag for life shopping bag rather than pay for plastic bags
  • Give up the chewing gum, most contain plastic, talc and latex products, though there are some natural products out there
  • Avoid food with excessive packaging and use refill stations for liquid cleaning products
  • Take steps to reduce microfibres from washing fabrics
  • Continue to recycle suitable plastics at the kerbside, supermarket or local authority recycling centre
  • If buying products made from plastics try and buy those with a recycled content – closing the loop and stimulating the market for recycled plastic
  • Pick up and recycle plastic bottles while out walking if safe to do so (you may wish to consider a litter picker)
  • Get involved – lobby your local MP, sign petitions, make your voice heard.