Cittaslow towns across the world are grappling with the global problem of plastic pollution. How best can we reduce our reliance on plastics and recycle those plastics that are used? Our Cittaslow towns – Alylsham, Llangollen and Mold – share their experiences of how to improve environmental sustainability with one another.
The Plastic Free Llangollen group is working with several retailers in their town to offer plastic free shopping. The group is also advising Mold on ways to reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles, such as introducing refill schemes. Aylsham is in the process of converting a K6 red telephone box into a water filling station in their historic Market Place. The K6 kiosk was commissioned by the General Post Office in 1935 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V!
The following article, written by students George Hinson and Theo Pagan for Aylsham High School’s magazine, gives an insight into the way young people in Aylsham would like to reduce plastic contamination.
The last straw. Is it too late to end plastic pollution?
Our planet is under a huge environmental strain due to the colossal consumption of single use plastics and burning of fossil fuels, which contribute to the ever-rising levels of CO2. Since the 1950s, a staggering 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced, leading to contamination of the oceans and land. Even so-called ‘biodegradable’ plastics are constructed from minute particles of plastics held together with organic plant starches. When this rots, the starch decomposes and releases the plastic particles into the environment. These micro plastics are consumed by primary consumers such as plankton, which in turn are consumed by larger organisms in the life cycle. Gradually, the concentrations of plastic build up in predators, with detrimental effects on the animals’ health.
According to a 2016 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. We need to start making changes for the benefit of future generations by asking ourselves if the plastic straws, cotton buds, disposable cups and the colossal amount of food packaging we use daily are really necessary. Plastic straws alone are thought by the campaign group Refuse the Straw to take over 200 years to decompose; 8.5 billion straws are consumed by the UK alone each year! The total plastic waste the UK produces in a year is 31 million tonnes. We can all help reduce this by making small changes to our everyday lives: avoid using plastic bags, bottles, disposable cups, cotton buds, plastic straws, and instead, use the widely available alternatives.
At Aylsham High School, all event cutlery and crockery is reusable, we have biodegradable coffee stirrers and recyclable coffee cups, while plastics are recycled whenever possible. A drastic change needs to take place in this world. Discussing these issues simply isn’t enough anymore; we all need to take action, even if it is as simple as using a paper straw.