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Earth Day 2024: Planet vs Plastics

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By Adam Ifans
22 Apr 2024

Today (22 April) is Earth Day, a day that sees people all over the world uniting to demand that their governments, businesses and fellow citizens take decisive action to fight the climate crisis. The first Earth Day took place in 1970 and today it works with over 150,000 partners in over 192 countries.

This year’s Earth Day is all about the big pollution menace that is all around us – plastic. In Britain, we’ve banned disposable carrier bags and plastic straws, but this is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge amount of plastic that’s polluting our environment every day. Whether it’s trapping turtles, polluting our oceans or making its way into almost every living organism in the form of micro-plastics, it’s everywhere and it must be stopped.

planet v plastics

This Earth Day, we’re joining the call to demand a 60 percent reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040. To do this, the world needs to stop making single-use plastics by 2030 and commit to funding innovative technologies to replace them. 

The potential human health impact alone is terrifying. Microplastics have been found in human placentas and breast milk, and there’s evidence that they are accumulating in our major organs, including our brains. It’s all so new that there’s little hard evidence on the effects of microplastics on the human body as yet – but do we really want to keep going down this road? 

Fossil fuels and plastic 

Plastic is a big problem for the planet even before it pollutes our watercourses. Plastic production is responsible for 5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Friends of the Earth.  

This is because 98 percent of single-use plastics are made from fossil fuel derived materials, which means their very creation is a huge contributor to the climate crisis. 

We need to end the use of fossil fuels – and we’re doing exactly that. We use the money from our customers’ energy bills to build new sources of green energy ourselves, so our customers are actively increasing the proportion of green energy out there. 

Ready to make a difference? Join Ecotricity this Earth Day for a greener future. 

refinery

 There are already a large number of innovative alternatives to plastic on the market. We’ve occasionally seen non-plastic, single-use wrapping on some foods in the supermarket. It’s a start but it’s all happening far too slowly.   The problem is that plastic is unbelievably cheap, and any new technologies need to develop and prove themselves at scale before they can compete. The answer, of course, is to bite the bullet and accept that there is a price – although it’s a relatively small one – for ditching plastic. It worked with single-use carrier bags, why shouldn’t it work on a larger scale? 

8 terrifying plastic facts  

You may want to hide behind the sofa for this section, which is packed with just a few of the scary statistics about plastics that we’ve found.  

  1. Less than 10 percent of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled. 

  2. And plastic consumption is growing by around 4 percent annually in Western Europe. 

  3. Plastic bottles take over 450 years to degrade… 

  4. But one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute worldwide! 

  5. UK households throw away 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging each year - that’s around 11 million every hour

  6. There’s currently a mass of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean that’s three times the size of France

  7. Most single-use plastics end up in landfill, which account for over 15 percent of all methane emissions. 

  8. If all plastic was recycled globally, this could save up to 150 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to shutting around 40 coal-fired power stations

These statistics are just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg when it comes to plastics. But there is hope – and that’s where Earth Day 2024 comes in.  

Check out the Earth Day website for information packs, toolkits and to find events near you. 

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