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Nearly all of us use them on a daily basis, whether it’s a coffee shop cup, takeaway box or food packaging, but what impact on our environment does the use of single use plastics have?

Production and use of plastic has dramatically increased over the last 20 years and it has become an essential product in our modern lives. Everywhere you look plastic is being used and it isn’t going to be disappearing anytime soon, but we could all be doing our bit to reduce the amount of single use plastic we use in our day-to-day lives, as these are a huge factor in the climate change we’re currently experiencing.

So, what happens to plastic after we’ve binned it? At the moment, a lot of the plastic we use just ends up at landfill sites, where it can take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down, but it’s not just the accumulation of said plastics that harms the environment – it is also the fragments and toxins released during photo-decomposition that pollute our soil and water. As well as ending up at landfill sites, more than 8 billion tonnes of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year, with half of this being from single use plastic, so just think of the progress we could make if we all made a conscious effort to reduce single use plastic consumption. If we carry on disposing plastic at the same rates we are now there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish by 2050, which is a very scary thought. And I’m sure by now most of us will have seen Blue Planet 2, or at least pictures of it like the one to the left, and we should all want to reduce the amount of instances where turtles, seals, sea birds and more are getting caught up in things like beers can rings, plastic bags, fishing nets etc.

What can we do to tackle the plastic build up in the world then? Burning plastic isn’t an option as this releases highly toxic environmental pollutants that can potentially cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and cause cancer. So, at the moment the only solution we have is to wait for plastics to naturally decompose which, as pointed out earlier, can take hundreds if not thousands of years to happen.

This is why we all need to be more conscious of the amount of single use plastics we are using, as we need to be tackling the problem as soon as we can. On 24th October, just 2 days after the UK government officially announced its plan to ban plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds, the EU announced that they were introducing reforms to tackle everything the UK has named, plus plastic cutlery, plates and balloon sticks as well. This is a huge step forward in the battle on plastic, as it means that even those people who are not making a conscious effort to reduce their single use plastic consumption will be doing so anyway as it will become law. There is no set date yet for when this law will come into practice, but in the meantime we should all be looking to reduce, if not wipe out entirely, our use of the products outlined by the EU.