Do you know that during the last decade more plastic has been produced than in the whole of the previous 100 years and that 50% of all plastics are used just once and thrown away?
Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times and plastic can take between 500 and 1000 years to decompose.
This upsurge in plastic pollution has had some disturbing effects. A lot of plastic pollution enters the ocean. The Pacific Ocean supports an area of floating bits of plastic twice the size of Texas and it is estimated that one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed each year by plastic in the world’s seas.
With such facts in mind, public sector organisations and businesses in County Durham are teaming up in an attempt to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics.
Durham County Council were recently joined by a number of partners at County Hall, where a pledge was signed to work towards removing all unnecessary single-use plastics from their operations.
The signatories included Durham University, Northumbrian Water, Durham Constabulary and Beamish Museum.
The partners are reducing their single-use plastic consumption through measures such as eliminating plastic cutlery and straws in canteens, reusing cups, and recycling plastics whenever possible.
Durham County Council has taken measures such as phasing out blue plastic overshoes at its leisure centres, replacing plastic confetti at theatre shows with environmentally friendly alternatives, and reusing non-recyclable plastics to resurface roads.
Northumbrian Water has been promoting its Refill scheme to encourage people to use less plastic water bottles. Under this scheme, cafes, restaurants and a range of other businesses can declare themselves Refill Stations, where members of the public can refill their bottles with tap water for free.
Durham University is experimenting with reusable cartons for students’ lunches and swapping disposable cups for reusable mugs, glasses and cups. The university also plans to replace drinks in plastic bottles with canned drinks in its vending machines.
Other organisations that have signed the pledge include The Environment Agency, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, North East England Nature Partnership, Durham BID, County Durham Housing Group, OASES and Durham Community Action.
Many more organisations and companies across County Durham are being encouraged to sign up for the campaign.
The leader of Durham County Council, Cllr Simon Henig, said, “This pledge is not anti-plastic as we recognise its value to everyday life. What we are working together to reduce, however, is the throw-away materials, of single use, which not only cause harm to our environment if disposed of incorrectly, but are also wasteful of resources.”
“I am delighted that this pledge is a collective one, pooling the efforts of not just one organisation, but several, all working towards a common cause.”
“The signatories here today are just the start and I am confident, given the importance of the issue and the strength of opinion, more will follow.”
The area director of Environment Agency North East, Oliver Harmar, said, “Plastic waste is one of the most important issues facing our planet today and we need to take action now to significantly reduce plastic pollution and the impact it has on our environment.”
“We will achieve this by working closely together, sharing good practice and winning hearts and minds to change the culture around single-use plastics, which is why I am delighted to sign this commitment.”
Lisa Wilkinson, sustainability manager at Beamish Museum, said, “The museum brings the region’s past to life, but we’re also committed to ensuring a greener and more sustainable future, providing the highest quality visitor experience while working towards minimising environmental impact.”
“We’re delighted to be working with organisations across County Durham on this very important issue.”
Businesses and residents who are interested in signing the pledge on single-use plastics can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All those who sign the pledge will receive information, support and guidance to help them reduce their single-use-plastics consumption and find viable alternatives to single-use-plastic products.
To learn more about rubbish and recycling in County Durham, please visit www.durham.gov.uk/recycling.