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Topic: Plastic-free July tips and tricks

Author: Lara Jane Gerard, Red Ranger Volunteer

The Cause, The Issue, The Solution

Bottles, packaging, and carrier bags are all made of plastic. Plastic is a material that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic have been produced! Plus, half of this was produced in the last 15 years.

Not only is plastic an eyesore, but it seriously harms both our environment and wildlife. For example, fishing nets and plastic can holders entangle animals, inflicting deadly injuries if not removed.

Did you know that litter, especially with food scraps, encourages squirrels to group together? This increases the spread of infections, including the Squirrel Pox virus which contributes to the deaths of many of our native red squirrels.

Plus, because of plastic’s similarity to natural materials such as moss and sticks, plastic is used by many bird species to construct nests.

Plastic has also been discovered in respiratory and digestive tracts of birds and marine creatures! But the plastic issue begins lower in the food chain. Large plastic waste gets broken down into microplastics by the sun’s rays and ocean waves. These microplastics are carried out to sea by ocean currents, making them extremely difficult to remove or trace. Microplastics are consumed by zooplankton and phytoplankton and microplastic concentrations rise through the trophic levels when people consume fish, squid, shellfish, and other animals. The number of microplastics in these species is much higher.

Easy changes you can make this July:

1. Use reusable shopping bags

A typical UK household uses about ten plastic bags every week. So next time you go shopping, bring reusable bags or cotton shopping bags with you.

2. Upcycle plastic milk bottles

Do you have a lot of plastic but are not sure what to do with it? Upcycle your milk plastic bottles into self-serve strawberry pots or herb stations?

  • Begin with your empty, clean milk bottles.
  • On the opposite side of the handle, cut a square out of each bottle.
  • Drill three or four holes in the bottom of each milk bottle and fill with stones (for drainage).
  • Fill the holes with compost and your favourite plant (strawberries, tomatoes, mint, etc.) and water thoroughly.
  • Insert a wooden dowel (or yarn if you don’t have any) through the handle of the bottles.
  • Hang with yarn, hooks, or brackets.

3. Make your own beeswax food wraps

Use your easy food wrappers to replace clingfilm and tinfoil. These wraps are simple to create, but if you don’t have time, they may be purchased in shops or online.

4. Transform plastic plant pots

If you have a lot of plastic plant pots left over from gardening, why not turn them into a living wall for fruit and wildlife?

  • Begin by looping yarn through a planter and tying a knot beneath it. Repeat for as many empty plant pots as you have.
  • Attach the string to the fence with a nail or wrap it around the post.
  • Compost should be added to each plant container.
  • Add your seeds of choice (fruit, veggies, butterfly or bee-friendly mix), cover with a thin layer of compost, and water thoroughly.
  • All that remains is to wait and watch it develop!

5. Buy no-plastic fruit and veg

Almost all fruits and vegetables in stores are wrapped in single-use plastic. To limit your use of plastic, try getting your fruits and vegetables from your local fruit shop.

Not only will you be shopping for plastic-free food, but you will also be supporting your local farmers.

6. Buy plastic-free drinks or make your own

Try making your own drink instead of buying it in a plastic bottle, and take it with you on the go in a reusable bottle or hydro flask. Alternatively, if you’re too busy with garden parties to make your own, you can choose to buy drinks without plastic packaging this Summer. Some favourites:

Going plastic-free does not have to be difficult.

Small adjustments have a large impact.

Topic: BPA and Ocean plastic

Author: Noelene Rickards, Red Ranger Volunteer

What is BPA?

BPA stands for Bisphenol A, an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resin since 1950. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin, and polycarbonate plastic is used in food containers and water bottles. In 2011 the use of BPA was banned in babies’ bottles and related products. Bottles are now made of plastic called polypropylene which meets current safety standards. However, polypropylene does release tiny amounts of plastic called microplastics into formula or breast milk.

The primary source of human exposure to BPA is via food. Epoxy and PVC are used to line the insides of food cans (to prevent corrosion of the metal by acidic food) and polycarbonate drinks containers. BPA is an environmental contaminate of emerging concern and its continuous release of BPA into the environment causes continuous exposure to both animals and plant life. Existing data shows the effects of BPA on wildlife to be generally negative. Some animal studies have shown the possible link between BPA exposure and later risks of cancer, heart problems, reproductive problems early puberty, diabetes, decreased sperm count, obesity and neurological problems.

Steps to reduce your exposure to BPA

 ● Use BPA-free products. Most are BPA-free now, but if you’re unsure, read this article: How to Tell If Plastic Is BPA-Free (thespruceeats.com)

● Avoid heat – don’t put plastic containers in the microwave or dishwasher because the heat may break them down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.

● Use alternatives such as glass porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot food and liquids.

Plastic in the ocean

Sadly, the plastic problem is getting worse, growing by 5% annually. In 2014, studies estimated that there were 5.25 trillion particles of plastic floating in the ocean!

However, by 2050, there will between 850-950 million tonnes of ocean plastic, according to the MacArthur report. This means that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean!

Here’s how it gets into the ocean…

Ocean plastic’s harmful effects

Ocean plastic affects many species, often leading to death. For example, turtles confuse plastic bags with jellyfish and consume them, and sea birds think some floating plastic is food.

Did you know a whale was discovered dead in Scotland in 2019, with 100kg of plastic fishing nets, rope, plastic cups etc. in its stomach?

Some ways to reduce your plastic pollution

  1. To reduce microplastic pollution from synthetic clothing, opt for natural fibres, buy clothes that last a long time, and learn to upcycle.
  2. Use refill stations for detergents here.
  3. Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup.
  4. Stop using plastic straws.