Let’s Talk About Plastic Pollution
Plastic pollution. Single-use plastic. Reusable. Microplastics. Cleaning up our oceans.
We’ve all probably heard these terms a fair bit over the last few years. But how much do we actually know about them? And what exactly is the deal with plastic pollution? Let’s dive in.
Since the 1950s, plastic production has risen at a faster rate than any other material. Currently 300 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated every year, and a large part of this ends up in landfill or in the natural environment, such as our oceans.
No one knows for certain how much plastic is in our oceans but estimates suggest that each year, 8 million metric tons of plastic waste ends up there. This pool of plastic is made up of a range of sources, such as plastic bags, bottles, straws, food wrappers, cigarette butts and fishing nets. By 2040, if there are no changes to the ways we currently produce, consume and manage plastic, it’s predicted that the amount of plastic entering the ocean could be as high as 30 million metric tonnes per year.
What about recycling? Is that not helping to improve the situation? When it comes to recycling there are currently two problems according to Veolia: not all plastics can currently be recycled and not all recyclable plastics are actually being recycled. In Europe, only 30% of recyclable plastics are collected for recycling. The rest is incinerated or ends up in landfill, rubbish tips and scattered around the environment.
So, we know that the situation is bad, but why exactly is this so concerning? Well, when plastic is in the ocean, it usually breaks down into smaller pieces through reactions with the sun, oxygen or by friction. These smaller pieces are known as microplastics. Plastic in the sea gets caught up in circular ocean currents called Gyres which whirl the plastic around large distances. Very little of this plastic floats near the surface and most sinks to the ocean floor or gets washed up on beaches and shorelines, making it very hard to collect and poses a lot of harm to marine life. So, once plastic enters the ocean it is likely that it will be there forever.
Growing research is also uncovering the multiple ways that microplastics are unknowingly harming marine and human life. Microplastics have now been found pretty much everywhere, from snow in the Arctic to bottom-living sea creatures.
Once ingested by sea life, microplastics travel through the food chain ending up in the food we eat. The issue is a global one. It doesn’t just affect communities living near the sea but all of us, through the food we eat and the water we drink.
Now for the big question. If plastic is so bad, why do we continue to use it?
There’s no doubt that certain plastics are bad news for the environment (and our health), and we should continue to find new alternatives. But there are a few reasons why plastic is still used so widely:
- It’s lightweight. When transported, it’s less energy intensive so it can actually lower the emissions produced and reduce the carbon footprint of the shipment. Plastic isn’t as bulky as cardboard, and it’s lighter than metal and glass so for some products it can be a good option.
- It’s sturdy. This has allowed packaging to become smaller and more streamlined, reducing the total volume of packaging needed. It usually lasts longer than other materials, such as paper (which means we can and should find ways to reuse it).
- It’s durable and strong. Plastic is resistant to corrosion, impact, UV rays and many other environmental factors. It can provide more protection to products, helping them last longer and travel safely.
Okay, so now you understand the deal with plastic and why there isn’t really a straightforward solution. But let’s talk about what we can all do to help.
Admittedly, most of the game changing work will come from product designers, material engineers, recycling facilities and new government regulations. But what we can all do as consumers, is to reconsider how we treat plastic products when we’re done using them. Here are some handy tips:
- Do some research into the products you use everyday and find out where they can be recycled in your local area (it will differ depending on where you live). If it can’t be recycled? Maybe it’s time to consider an alternative.
- Try putting a recycling bin in your bathroom to remind yourself to recycle your beauty products. It sounds simple but many of us still don’t recycle the majority of our bathroom empties and this is a great way to remind yourself and streamline the process.
- Reuse. It’s a far more eco-friendly option than recycling so try and get inventive with your empties and see if you can maybe repurpose them around the house. How about a vase for your flowers or a jar to keep your cotton pads in? Our team is a big fan of reusing glass jars from their favourite beauty buys and turning them into soy candles.
The list of ways you can do this is endless. We would love to see how you are getting creative with your Naturisimo products. Let us know by tagging @naturisimo in your upcycled beauty products.
And hey, we know that as a beauty retailer we play a huge role in bringing about real, meaningful change in the fight against plastic pollution. We’ve always championed the brands in our range who pioneer innovative and planet-friendly formulations and packaging. We try to be as transparent as possible about what your product is made from and whether or not it’s recyclable (we always prefer to stock products that are). And we have recently introduced new collections that make it easier for you to shop sustainable, green beauty. But we know we can do more.
We’re currently working on some new, exciting initiatives to try and cut out single-use plastic from our website (watch this space), and look at ways we can offer a simple and effective recycling scheme for our customers. It’s a work in progress, but rest assured we’re on it. We take our responsibility here very seriously. We know we still have a long way to go, but we’re in this for the long haul.
The future of beauty is green.