Lancaster Guardian launches plastic waste campaign

Plastic pollution in the sea. Picture by Blue Planet 2, BBC.
Plastic pollution in the sea. Picture by Blue Planet 2, BBC.
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The Lancaster Guardian is today pledging to raise awareness around and join the fight against the huge problem of plastic choking our oceans and littering our city, coast and countryside. Nick Lakin reports...

Plastic.

It’s everywhere.

Carrier bags, wrappers, nappies, bottles, food packaging, bubble wrap, straws, single use drinks cups - sometimes it feels like we’re drowning in the stuff.

The recent Blue Planet documentary with David Attenborough brought home to many just how serious the situation has become.

We hear about the Pacific Garbage Patch, a vast swathe of rubbish bigger than the state of Texas, and of microplastics finding their way into our foodchain via the fish we buy from the supermarkets.

A new and unsavoury addition to the increasingly precarious circle of life.

That’s why we’re launching our “Sack The Plastic” campaign this week, which is being backed by the MPs for Lancaster and Morecambe, and Lancaster’s incoming Mayor.

The Queen has also announced this week that single use plastics will be banned from the Royal estate, while politicians, businesses and households are waking up to the dilemma.

This year, China is no longer accepting various materials including plastic waste from foreign countries.

The unaltered stomach contents of a dead albatross chick photographed on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific in September 2009 include plastic marine debris fed the chick by its parents.

The unaltered stomach contents of a dead albatross chick photographed on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific in September 2009 include plastic marine debris fed the chick by its parents.

According to environmental charity Greenpeace, the UK sends nearly two-thirds of its plastic waste to China.

Some 12 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year, and in 2012 it was estimated there is around 165 million tonness of plastic pollution currently swirling around in the sea.

Around 25,000 tonnes of plastic is recycled in Lancashire every year.

In total, 100,000 tonnes of plastic, glass and metal is recycled annually in the county.

Lancaster Recycling Centre and landfill

Lancaster Recycling Centre and landfill

The numbers are mindboggling, and putting your milk containers into the recycling box every two weeks can sometimes feel like a depressingly small drop in the ocean.

Lancashire County Council says that 80 per cent of all waste is recyclable, but currently it recycles less than half.

Deputy Leader Councillor Albert Atkinson says the best way to reduce waste is not to produce it in the first place.

He added that industries are looking to reduce the amount they use in packaging, and make plastics which are designed to be easily recycled instead of used just once.

Currently, many plastics can’t be recycled, ending up in the grey bin, and ultimately landfill.

Lancaster’s Mayor-elect Andrew Kay is backing our campaign after launching his own series of measures to reduce our use of plastic by bringing back drinking water fountains, persuading businesses to offer water refills, and introducing Lancaster branded re-usable bottles.

He hopes that other cities and towns will follow suit, with many already taking the issue seriously and spearheading similar campaigns.

A Plastic Bottle Working Party has been set up in Lancaster, which is working with Lancaster University to develop initiatives to set the district apart as a national example, and the uni’s management school is working on an initiative called the Low Carbon Innovation Forum with small and medium sized businesses.

County Coun Charlie Edwards, who is chair of Lancashire’s Waste Strategy Sub Group, said that by 2025 the county is going to run out of landfill space.

He said: “All the councillors have decided to put aside their differences and try to get to grips with this.”

Next week, we hear from supermarkets - some of the biggest contributors to the plastic waste situation – about what they’re doing to address the issue.

Campaign groups, charities and businesses have all been trying to come to terms with the issue and reduce our reliance on plastic too, and we’ll be covering these initiatives over the coming weeks.

Do you have a story about how you’re sacking the plastic? Email guardian@jpress.co.uk.