Earlier this week I led a group of students to clear litter from the beaches of a local reserve. They did a fantastic job and we all had a really enjoyable time showing how a bit of positive action can bring people together as well as helping the environment. Nonetheless, whenever I take part in an activity such as this it makes me think about why the litter problem is there in the first place. Litter not only looks awful but it kills or injures wildlife, is a hazard to our own health and costs councils millions to clear up.
On my own coastline, the southern North Sea, 90% of Fulmars found dead around the coast have plastic in their stomachs. Further afield, turtles starve to death when plastic bags block their stomachs and sea birds mistake plastic for food. Since 1994 plastic litter has increased by 140% according to the Marine Conservation Society, an unforgiveable statistic given the growing awareness of the problems of marine pollution. The RSPCA deals with thousands of calls every year concerning animals that are injured by plastic or broken glass. The sad thing is that it is preventable.
What we need to do is provide more bins, far more bins and for councils to empty them more regularly. Secondly, companies need to vastly reduce the amount of packaging they create for their products. Most of it is completely unnecessary. Thirdly, we all need to take a look at our attitudes and ensure that we actively clear up more litter and discard less. That old phrase REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE should be a mantra for modern society. There is sadly a long way still to go.