One truck of plastic dumped in the sea every minute. If we don’t change the way we consume plastics, by 2050 there could be more plastic in the oceans than fish. We spoke to Digital Communications Manager of Marine Conservation Society, Irene Lorenzo, to find out more about the severity of the problem.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK’s leading charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife. The main focuses of their work are Marine Protected Areas, responsible seafood and reducing plastic and ocean pollution. MCS has office space at CAN Mezzanine, Borough.
Stop the Plastic Tide
MCS’ current campaign is Stop the Plastic Tide, which aims to reduce the production and consumption of single-use plastics that are causing irreversible damage to marine wildlife and their habitats.
“The plastic that can't be recycled goes mostly to landfill but sometimes ends up in rivers and streams, eventually reaching the coast and sea. Plastics will break down into smaller pieces of plastic, known as microplastics. Marine animals then consume those plastics, causing health problems not only to wildlife, but also to fish consumers.”
The Stop the Plastic Tide campaign tackles the problem on three fronts:
- A petition to UK governments asking for levies on single-use plastic items: straws, coffee cups, bottles and cutlery. “These are items that are often used but not actually needed, so people can do something about their use. We are about behaviour change and empowering people to make the change as well as corporations taking responsibility for all the plastic items they produce."
- A petition to fast food chains, pubs and restaurants asking them to stop giving out single-use plastic and replace items with economically viable, reusable or biodegradable alternatives. “The reason why companies use plastic is because it’s cheap. By making plastic more expensive, you can encourage them to choose something that is more sustainable."
- An appeal to raise funds to enable MCS to continue their work to ensure the UK’s seas stay healthy, pollution free and protected.
The MCS is also campaigning for deposit return systems for plastic bottles and cans: each item has a code and every time you return it to the shop, you get some money back.
“Supermarkets will have deposit points where you get money back for recycling bottles and cans. This provides an incentive for people to clear our coasts and cities from plastic litter. Scotland has already agreed to implement this system and we are working to convince the other UK governments to do the same.”
What can be done?
Signing the above petitions is the easiest way to support the MCS. But there are other things you can do to protect our oceans.
“We advise people not to put oil, grease and fat down the drain because they will congeal and cause blockages, especially when mixed with wet wipes. Blockages then cause overflows, and as a result any plastic items thrown down the toilet do end up in streams, rivers and ultimately our coasts and sea. In fact, wet wipes often have plastic components and are one of the most common litter items found on UK beaches. You can learn more about it in our “Stop the Unflushables” page.
“Avoid using single use plastic as much as you can. Many coffee shops now accept reusable cups and they will give out discounts to people who bring their own.”
You can help clear up beaches from plastic. A survey carried out by the charity found that there has been a 10% increase in beach litter from 2017 to 2018. Last September, almost 7,000 people took part in the MCS Great British Beach Clean and removed 255,209 pieces of litter from 339 beaches.
“We also find a lot of balloons and lanterns from releases on beaches so we have a campaign to ask MP’s to ban them at council level.”
Back the Blue Belt
Back the Blue Belt is a campaign created by a coalition of marine NGO's, including the Marine Conservation Society, to increase marine protection in the British Overseas Territories. The campaign proposes that Overseas Territory Governments establish a 'Blue Belt'; a series of large protected areas of ocean around 7 of the 14 British Overseas Territories, amounting to 4 million square kilometres of ocean. The vast marine estate is home to the world's largest coral atoll, a quarter of the world’s penguins and endangered turtles.
"When you visit the website, you can enter your postcode and easily email or tweet at your local MP. Since Blue Planet 2 was aired, we have seen increased support for the campaign and 259 MPs across eight parties are on board so far."
Why did a marine charity decide to move to CAN?
“We like the space, the facilities and the networking opportunities. Everything was set up for us very quickly. A lot of our work is about education, working with local communities and engaging them with environmental issues, so there are good chances to link up with other organisations based here.
“For example, we would be interested in meeting with International Pole and Line Foundation (who also have office space at CAN Mezzanine, Borough) since we do a lot of work on sustainable seafood. Our Good Fish Guide shows you the fish that you should avoid and those that you can eat, helping you make the most environmentally responsible choice. Every purchase matters!”