The ticking timebomb of ocean plastics

  • Written by  Ben Fogle
  • Published in Opinions
The ticking timebomb of ocean plastics Ben Fogle
04 Oct
2017
Something has gone badly wrong with our planet’s oceans. If plastic usage continues at current rates, our children’s children are going to be deprived of the chance to experience the ocean’s majestic wilderness that mankind has taken for granted for generations

Ben Fogle is a broadcaster, author, adventurer and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). He was recently announced as the new UN Patron of the Wilderness and is backing A Plastic Planet’s calls for a Plastic Free Aisle. To learn more about the campaign, please visit aplasticplanet.com.

Spending time on the ocean can be a deeply cathartic experience. Being by the sea is the perfect tonic to the relentless stresses and strains of modern life. Our oceans are our escape. They soothe the soul. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend hour after hour exploring the ocean in all four corners of the world. In 2005, I spent almost 50 days at sea rowing across the Atlantic with Olympian James Cracknell. Last year, I was dispatched to the Indian Ocean ahead of a documentary about the secrets of the sea. On both occasions, the ocean vista was wondrously majestic. But lurking underneath the surface lay the evidence of an inconvenient truth that no-one wants to acknowledge. Plastic. Reams and reams of plastic.

The sheer lunacy of plastic packaging is becoming clearer by the day. Last week a US study revealed that the pollution epidemic is now so bad that plastic debris in the oceans is accidentally transporting creatures to the other side of the world. Entire communities of coastal species have crossed thousands of miles of water floating on makeshift plastic rafts. Over the past five years almost 300 species of marine mammal have arrived in the US from Japan, having travelled on bits of marine debris.

The great consumer engine of the West must shoulder a sizable chunk of the blame for the mess we are in. Since throwaway packaging became a mainstay of the UK food and drink industry in the 1950s, we have been hooked on the pseudo-convenience that plastic provides. We devour plastic without a care in the world.

Despite growing awareness of the hideous effects of unfettered plastic consumption on the environment, the problem is only set to get worse in the decades ahead. Greenpeace reported earlier this week that Coca-Cola increased production of throwaway plastic bottles last year by well over billion. The world now binges on approximately one million plastic bottles a minute.

Conglomerates like Coca Cola point to recycling as the answer to the plastic crisis, yet plastic cannot be recycled ad infinitum. Most plastic can only be recycled twice before it becomes unusable. As a result, the vast majority of pieces of plastic packaging are destined to lie for centuries at the bottom of the ocean or in landfill.

The answer is simple: we simply have to use less plastic. Earlier this year I joined A Plastic Planet’s calls for a Plastic-Free aisle in supermarkets. A Plastic-Free aisle would give consumers real choice over what they buy. Now that shoppers are increasingly looking to select brands with a small environmental footprint, a Plastic-Free aisle would empower supermarkets to attract a growing band of eco-savvy consumers.

Shoppers can currently buy gluten-free and dairy-free so why not plastic-free?

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the positions of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) or Geographical.

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