Published: Jun 3, 2015You might notice on your next trip to Living Coasts that you come across a sea of plastic, suspended above your heads.
Strange as this may sound, there were reasons for creating this display, which, apart from being a great way to reuse plastic bags, carries a strong message that we hope our visitors will take away with them.
Why did we do it? I shall explain...
O, Plastic. What do we do with you? You’re so very useful yet can be so harmful to the environment! I still have to stop and think when I am out shopping to make sure I’m choosing products with a minimal amount of packaging, because really, unless I can recycle the plastic where does it go? In the bin? And then to landfill, and then where? What about all the litter that gets discarded on our streets, our beaches? Into the sea or stuck in a tree?
Where does it go?
Nowhere. Nowhere for a long, long time.
One thing I do well is not use plastic bags. They at least are one source of plastic we can all do without. Before I go to the shops I do the usual check to make sure I have everything I need. Keys? Wallet? Phone? Reusable bags?
I always keep a canvas bag or two on me, so that when asked at the shop “do you need a bag?” I can happily say “No thanks!” I’m saving the world one bag at a time. Or at least that’s what I like to think.
One less plastic bag a turtle mistakes for its jellyfishy dinner, and then dies of starvation as the plastic in its stomach makes it feel full whilst in reality it slowly starves.
One less plastic bag to get wrapped around a diving bird which can’t resurface and so drowns?
A recent study looking at the effect of plastic bags on the environment by scientists at Trinity College Dublin and the University of Plymouth found that in just nine weeks, plastic bags could smother the surface of coastal sediment, in this case coastal marshes, preventing oxygen and nutrient flow and blocking light. As a result of this there was a substantial reduction in the amount of microalgae beneath the bags, algae that form the base of the food webs in these habitats, meaning that every creature further up the chain from bivalves like mussels to birds like Oystercatchers are affected by the loss. That could happen to coral reefs, the bottom of a pond, flowerbeds in the park where the bees collect their pollen.
In 2011 businesses in the UK issued plastic bags at a rate of 254 a second. In 2013 plastic bag use had gone up to 8.3 billion per year! The Marine Conservation Society reported through their Beachwatch data that there are approximately 45 plastic bags per kilometer found on UK beaches.
So this is why we have a sea pf plastic bags. Because we have seas full of plastic bags! If we can make people stop and think about the effects plastic has on the environment then it might encourage more of us to go plastic bag free. One bag at a time. We can do it.
By Kate Hall, Education Presenter at Living Coasts. Further reading: New Study Shows How Plastic Bags Are Smothering Marine Life