This year’s theme for World Environment Day on 5 June is plastic pollution.
While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become addicted to single-use or disposable plastic with severe environmental consequences. Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution.
Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away.
Plastic waste is now so ubiquitous in the natural environment that scientists have even suggested it could serve as a geological indicator of the Anthropocene era.
How Thala helps to reduce plastic pollution
At Thala we’ve implemented the following to help reduce plastic pollution, while preserving and protecting the environment:
• Plastic straws have been replaced with paper straws in Osprey’s Restaurant and Golden Plover Cocktail Lounge
• Single-use plastic bags have been replaced with paper bags in the Gift Shop (we sell ’emergency’ bamboo toothbrushes!)
• Take-away coffee cups are eco friendly, are made from nature and are biodegradeable and compostable (biodegradeable lids available on request)
• In-room amenities (shampoo & soaps etc) are environmentally responsible and come in biodegradeable plastic bottles with recycled aluminum caps
• Gardens team adopts sustainable practices using organic pesticides
• Kitchens team source produce from local suppliers to reduce ‘food miles’ and support local community
• Marketing materials and brochures are available online to reduce printed material
So how did we get here?
From the 1950s to the 70s, only a small amount of plastic was produced, so plastic waste was relatively manageable.
By the 1990s, plastic waste generation had more than tripled in two decades, following a similar rise in plastic production.
In the early 2000s, our output of plastic waste rose more in a single decade than it had in the previous 40 years.
Today, we produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. That’s nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population.
Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s. About 60% of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment.
How can we help to reduce plastic waste?
We need to slow the flow of plastic at its source, but we also need to improve the way we manage our plastic waste. Because right now, a lot of it ends up in the environment.
Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. About 12% has been incinerated, while the rest — 79% — has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment.
Cigarette butts — whose filters contain tiny plastic fibres — were the most common type of plastic waste found in the environment in a recent global survey. Drink bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, drink lids, straws and stirrers were the next most common items. Many of us use these products every day, without even thinking about where they might end up.
Rivers carry plastic waste from deep inland to the sea, making them major contributors to ocean pollution
Most plastic items never fully disappear; they just get smaller and smaller. Many of these tiny plastic particles are swallowed by farm animals or fish who mistake them for food, and thus can find their way onto our dinner plates. They’ve also been found in a majority of the world’s tap water.
If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050. But the world is waking up to the problem, and governments are starting to act.
There are a number of things that governments can do — from running public awareness campaigns, to offering incentives for recycling, to introducing levies or even banning certain products outright.
An impressive — and growing — number of national and local governments have taken action against plastic pollution
This World Environment Day, the UN is calling on people everywhere to take concrete steps to #BeatPlasticPollution in their own lives. And you don’t have to wait until 5 June to act.
There are so many things that you can do – from asking the restaurants you frequent to stop using plastic straws, to bringing your own coffee mug to work, to pressuring your local authorities to improve how they manage your city’s waste.