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A message from the deep

This blog was written by WDC interns at the Scottish Dolphin Centre; Emily, Sadie, Emma and Anna to highlight the problem of plastic pollution. They set themselves a challenge to go plastic free and here they share their experience, struggles and successes.

 In December 2015 a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale stranded on the Isle of Skye bringing with it a message… Its stomach contained more than 4kg of plastic.

Cuvier’s Beaked Whales are the deepest diving whales in the world. They dive to depths of 3000 metres to feed on the sea bed. So what does this tell us about the depths of our oceans? It would seem this whale brought a message from the deep, and in doing so it lost its life. The oceans are full of our plastic and it’s killing the wildlife that calls the sea their home.

We talk a lot about the ocean being ours. Our oceans. However, is it really ours? Do we call it home? Do we raise our children and have our families in the oceans? No, it’s not ours. It’s theirs. It belongs to the thousands of species that call it home. So why do we think we have the right to destroy another species home?

Each year, thousands of animals die as a result of ingesting or becoming entangled in marine litter. It is a shocking fact that we are poisoning their oceans with over 8 million tons of plastic every single year. Over the next decade this figure is predicted to increase tenfold unless we can all change the way we use and dispose of our waste. In fact, scientists calculate that by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish. Is this the kind of legacy we want to leave future generations?  

As interns for WDC and passionate campaigners for marine conservation it was easy for us to assume that we are already doing our very best to look out for marine habitats and wildlife. However, on 17th August 2017 we watched a documentary called ‘A Plastic Ocean’. This is an incredibly hard-hitting film which sheds light on the troubling state of the marine environment. It was a stark reminder of the consequences of our ‘throwaway society’ and pointed out that every single one of us must take responsibility for what we put in the bin.

Since watching the film, our household has suddenly become hyper-aware of the plastic we use. It’s everywhere. Our fruit and veg are bagged in it, our meat and cheese is covered, our snacks are wrapped, our milk bottled. A worrying amount of this is ‘single use’ – often non-recyclable plastic only used once before it is thrown into landfill. 

We also started to do some research of our own – we wanted to find out more about why plastic in particular was deemed ‘the worst kind of marine litter’ and why so much of it that we presumed safely disposed of in landfill was finding its way into the sea. We discovered that once created, plastic never truly biodegrades and will continue to cause huge amounts of damage to the marine environment even when it has broken down into tiny pieces (micro-plastics). It is currently very difficult to remove litter from the ocean, so plastic continues to build year on year.

We also found that land based sources account for up to 80 percent of the world’s marine pollution and that between 60 and 95 percent of that is plastic. Whether blown, washed or carried it is clear that our responsibly binned rubbish is still a big part of the marine problem. 

So what is the solution? It is very easy for us the blame big corporations and companies for producing and selling the plastic we use. However, we often fail to recognise that the best way we can put these companies under pressure and force them to change is to first change our own behaviour as consumers. After all, if we stop paying for it, they’ll stop making it.

So we decided to take up the challenge! With a budget of £30 each we will be attempting to see how much we can reduce the amount of plastic we buy as part of our weekly shop. We will be comparing the weight of the plastic bought in a normal weekly shop and seeing how much we can reduce this by making more informed choices with our money. We will be sharing our experiences, successful or not, so that you can get some ideas about reducing the plastic you use and buy.  

Watch this space!

Below is an image of our plastic waste last week. Our challenge for this week: to find simple alternatives to the food we enjoy which are not packaged in plastic.

Week 1 – 1.25kg of plastic. Yellow box shows the recyclable plastic.

A Plastic Ocean can be watched on Netflix or downloaded online.