Reasons to be hopeful after Commonwealth funding announcement on plastics

Maria das Gracas

Last year, Maria das Gracas’ house flooded eight times. As I stood with her in her home in a favela in Recife, Brazil, she told me how her community is now sorting and collecting the plastic and waste that clogs the river running through the neighbourhood, improving people’s lives and preventing it getting into the ocean too.

Since Sir David Attenborough and Blue Planet II hit our screens towards the end of last year, many of us have become sensitised to the devastating impact of plastics on our environment. At Tearfund we have become increasingly aware – through our work on the circular economy and our interactions with local communities – that such waste is not just an environmental problem, it is fast becoming a public health crisis for the poorest people.   [Read more…]

The world’s biggest waste dump (hint: it’s big, blue and you like going there)

I used to be a big fan of seafood: crabs, mussels, prawns you name it, I ate it. Then when this year Ghent University in Belgium found that seafood lovers could be eating up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic a year, I reluctantly decided to cut my consumption to the odd treat (what’s a couple of hundred bits of microplastics between friends). Consumers in better off nations like ours are rightly worried about the as yet unknown health impacts of ingesting plastic, but little or no attention has been paid to the impact on communities in the developing world.

The escalating crisis of marine litter (this ranges from microbeads to plastic bottles to boats) is the latest, dystopian symptom of a linear economy which takes, makes and throws away.  It turns out ‘away’ is often the oceans. Every year we produce 300 million pieces of plastic and 5 to 12.5 million pieces of it end up in the oceans.   [Read more…]