Thursday, 8 September 2011

The age of plastic

I was in the north of Scotland for my holiday and spent a day visiting an Iron Age site on the coast. My 7-year-old nephew Henry volunteered that we lived in the age of plastic when we discussed the various ages of man. I think he was spot on, as a look on the beach was proof enough of this insight. On the beach were plastic bottles, netting, boxes, rope, cartons, bags and crates.

Plastic as a substance has been around for about a hundred years and the qualities that have made it so successful its durability and versatility also makes it deadly for wildlife.

Tens of thousands of whales, birds, seals and turtles are killed every year in the marine environment as they often mistake plastic bags for food. Its also been known to damage farm animals.

Plastic bags, once ingested, cannot be digested or passed by an animal so it stays in the gut. Plastic in an animal's gut can prevent food digestion and can lead to a very slow and painful death.

Plastic does not biodegrade because it is a combination of elements extracted from crude oil then re mixed up by men in white coats. Because these combinations are man made they are unknown to nature.
Plastic never really disappears. In effect it lasts forever.

A number of countries are taking measures to restrict the use of plastic bags.
Ireland has instituted a steep tax on plastics. According to the country’s Ministry of Environment, use fell by 90 percent as a result, and the tax money that was generated funded a greatly expanded recycling program throughout the country.

Larger economies have joined the cause. French and Italian legislators imposed a ban on all non-biodegradable plastic bags, to go into effect in 2010.

I feel that the UK should equally move in the direction of a ban.

At the current rate of environmental depredation it is likely that humankind will become extinct in the next few hundred years. It would be pathetic if the plastic bag is the proof for any future custodians of the planet of our existence.