I don’t often write letters to the editor of the local paper, The Islander, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. ‘Send a message’ plastic bottles are apparently common around Australia, and Oil Free Seas alerted us to them arriving on ‘clean, green’ Kangaroo Island. What are we thinking? So I wrote:
I commend Sharon Zealand of Oil Free Seas Australia for pointing out the risk of the plastic message in a bottle.
The product may not be intended for the sea but chances are that up to 5% of the product will end up there. That’s the percentage of the 300 million tonnes of plastic the world produces each year that washes into the sea – about 12 million tonnes of plastic every year.
Recent studies predict that by 2050 we will have more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish. Already, 60% of all seabirds have plastic in their gut. Plastic never goes away, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that keep killing.
There’s only one way to stop this havoc. Stop making and using plastic. Idealistic, sure, but not selling gimmicky plastic tourist products would be a pretty good place to start.
Brand KI (and I am a proud member) proclaims that Kangaroo Islanders have a “tangible and individual connection to the natural world”.
Shouldn’t we islanders behave as if we do? Shouldn’t we reduce all plastic use? Shouldn’t we sell brand-affirming souvenirs made from natural materials? Shouldn’t we produce them on the island and support island artists, craftspeople and handypeople, and our broader economy and its future?
Unfortunately, people are pretty good at not getting things quite right – I have trekked in the Himalayas with people who complained that there were hills and brought along high heels – so some of them putting plastic ‘send a message’ bottles in the sea is a sure bet.
And while I’m at it, the top 6 items of rubbish in the ocean are cigarette buts, caps and lids, plastic drink bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers/containers, and cups, plates, cutlery – more or less in that order and mostly plastic. Almost three-quarters of marine litter is ‘single-use’ plastic items.
The deadliest ocean trash, according to a CSIRO study, are in order: (1) fishing gear, (2) plastic bags and utensils, (3) balloons, (4) cigarette butts, (5) bottle caps. Animals get entangled or eat items thinking they are food. Some items contaminate the water.
The best way to do something about it: Refuse to Use, especially single-use bags at the supermarket checkout.
And you can support organisations that are doing something positive about removing plastic from oceans, such as these:
- Plastic Bank helps the world’s most disadvantaged people to reuse and recycle single use plastic items to their community’s advantage.
- Ocean Conservancy works for a healthy ocean by gathering and distributing information, and organising volunteers clean-ups.