A world map on www.is.gd/ejutuf suggests that the UK – while not the largest polluter – still produces more than France, Germany and Italy, and about the same amount as Mexico and Russia. The Port of London Authority estimates 300t of litter is cleared out of the Thames every year, much of it plastic.
Although some of the worst-affected regions in the world lack proper rubbish collection infrastructure, consumer behaviours play a huge role. Dropped litter washes into storm drains and rivers and, ultimately the sea. To that end, the Great British Spring Clean, starts this month (www.is.gd/imuxas), followed by the Great British Beach Clean in summer (www.is.gd/wuguqu).
UK government is helping. Last year DEFRA consulted on banning sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. SOE is affiliated to Society of the Environment, which submitted a response in favour of the ban, as part of the larger grouping – the Environmental Policy Forum. That same month, DEFRA announced plans to consult on a plastic bottles deposit refund scheme. UK industry is also helping: Ford Dagenham, for example, maintains its local habitat by keeping waterways on site clear (www.is.gd/sidige).
But still, industry could be doing more. For example, a US guide to reducing and managing site litter (www.is.gd/ohobep), offers tips, such as providing sufficient numbers of rubbish bins around the site. And UK environmental consultant Anthesis has published a guide to reducing the use of plastic in the supply chain (www.is.gd/hirura). By the way, the polythene wrapper this magazine was delivered in can be recycled with supermarket carrier bags.
Thinking even bigger, there’s a glaring omission among the 30-odd signatories of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste: not one comes from the world’s fifth-largest economy. It’s time that changed.