Plastic waste is a major threat to the world. It poisons our bodies, pollutes our land, air and water, and kills animals of all shapes and sizes down to the tiniest plankton. Every year, our planet’s oceans are filled with an extra 11 million metric tons of plastic, the populations and ecosystems of the Global South suffering the most from this problem. The UK is now the world’s second largest producer of plastic waste per person after the US, exporting much of it to other, poorer countries. But the plastic scourge is seriously damaging Britain too, including our local area. S&C correspondents report on an inspiring local initiative to combat this crisis – and what Portsmouth people can do to help.
Based at the University of Portsmouth, Revolution Plastics is finding innovative ways to:
- Transform methods of plastic production, use and disposal
- Develop a new plastics economy
- Create new approaches that incentivise sustainable plastic production, use and disposal
- Build partnerships with industry and policy makers to inspire sustainability initiatives
- Inform citizens to make better decisions about using and disposing of plastic
Happening right now is Plastic Free July, in which participants across the world are giving up single use plastics for one week this month. You can switch to reusable coffee and tea cups, avoid buying fruit and veg that comes in plastic packaging, and quit using plastic bags, straws and bottles. Individuals making such small changes on the local level can add up to a collective, grassroots solution to the global plastics problem.
We must also act to stop the damage done by plastics in and around our city, argues Tristan Thorn, Portsmouth City Council’s Climate Change Officer: ‘The disposal of solid waste from Portsmouth caused over 4,300 tonnes of CO2e in 2018. As one of Europe’s only island cities, and with a long maritime history, we have a special connection to our coastline. On Portsmouth beach alone over 10,000 pieces of plastic can be found in a single month. Most of this plastic tends to be cutlery, straws and wrappers. Everyone in Portsmouth therefore has to take responsibility for their area; from the day trippers having a picnic to the businesses handing out single-use plastic by the beach.’
In association with local company Jetsam Tech, Revolution Plastics is empowering ordinary people to help keep Portsmouth’s environment clean and safe. The inventively interactive Jetsam app – downloadable for free here – allows users to photograph any plastic waste they encounter while walking the dog, having a picnic or going for a cycle. This data will then be processed by Revolution Plastics to determine the types, quantities and sources of the plastic pollution in Portsmouth.
Your knowledge and experience is also needed by another of Revolution Plastic’s collaborators, the Big Microplastic Survey. Building on the success of a similar audit of Chichester Harbour – which involved 80 members of the public collecting microplastic samples from the beach and yielded vital information about the ingestion of this waste by wildfowl and other creatures – the current project takes a ‘citizen science’ approach. You can sign up here to conduct your own experiment in collecting and analysing samples of microplastics from daily items found in your neighbourhood or in your local park or beach. It’s a fun, sociable, family-friendly way of doing your bit for the environment.
Another forum that values public input is the Portsmouth Climate Action Board, which works closely with Revolution Plastics. The Board focuses on changing the ‘way we do business, shop, travel, grow our food and power our homes’ for a carbon-neutral future. Its website has many useful suggestions for how we can all fight the scourge of plastic and associated pollution by rewilding our city and doing much more personal recycling for the objective of a truly ‘circular economy.’
For more information on how to get involved in any of the above initiatives, sign up to Revolution Plastics here. With plastic waste greatly contributing to the climate catastrophe facing us all – in Portsmouth and everywhere else – there’s no time to lose.
Image used courtesy of Revolution Plastics.