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The need for political literacy

The problems with plastics

The UN intergovernmental panel on climate change, the IPCC, is categorical in its conclusion: climate change is real and human activities are the main cause.

Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time

In 2019, the UK parliament declared a Climate & Ecological Emergency. AT AGM in Octoberapo voted unanimously to support this declaration.

In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 goals for a better world by 2030. These Global Goals for sustainable development, have the power to end poverty, fight inequality and stop climate change. Crucially, the UK has signed up to these goals.

We as a people are encouraged to be ‘good consumers’, to buy new products and grow the economy. But with consuming comes waste, most of that waste is plastics; plastics which cannot be properly recycled.
Plastic in the world’s oceans has emerged as a major environmental problem, with scientists and environmentalists unanimous in highlighting its harmful effects on marine creatures and in our oceans.
Did you know that the UK ships most of its plastic waste to countries who are simply unable to cope with it – mostly Asian countries who do not have the systems in place to manage it. Prior to 2017, China imported two-thirds of the world’s plastic waste, so, when China stopped buying the UK’s discarded plastics, the scale of the waste epidemic could no longer be offloaded.

The UK does not have the systems in place to manage the waste we produce and therefore recycling should not be our first solution: reducing our use of plastic should.

In a 2017 article in the Independent, it is estimated that 79% of the plastic produced over the last seventy years has been thrown away, either into landfill sites or into the general environment. Guess how much is recycled? It’s around nine per cent.

We know that global cooperation is needed to reduce plastic pollution, but this requires commitment from big business, especially from the oil and gas industries.

Conventional plastic is made from fossil fuels and is a product of the oil and gas industry. We know that big business will maintain its profit-making ability wherever possible – and we know that the moral case for using renewable energies for a healthy climate, may be resisted. So how can we, individually and collectively, make a difference?

Here’s some things we can all do:

  1. STOP buying plastic bottles of water. Bring your own reusable bottle everywhere you go, and fill up. Did you know that many airports now have water taps for public use.
  2. Consider buying solid toiletries – yes, the good old bar of soap is back.
  3. Bring reusable bags to the store – ask NAPO for a free cloth bag
  4. Use DIY cleaning products – you know you probably have all the ingredients in your cupboards already.
  5. Avoid products with ‘microbeads’. Those little beads in face and body scrubs are made from plastics and are lethal for marine life.
  6. Share, share, share, and educate. Tell people what you do to reduce plastic. Get your colleagues and workplace involved. Share success.
  7. Write to your local MP and Council. Go to council meetings, put climate change and reducing plastic on the agenda, support local initiatives, and join with others in your community to change things.

Recommended reading: (foreword by Chris Packham) This fun, easy read is full of 2-minute ways to make a difference.

Napo supports the campaign against climate change. Napo will source and use sustainable materials for its promotional products.

Mairead Finn, Napo Cymru

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