The World’s fight against plastic

News of a seal pup that died because it had plastic in it’s stomach is one of the latest articles demonstrating the problems with overuse of plastic in our society.

The harp seal pup was found on the island of Skye and was brought to the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS), a government-funded organisation that investigates mortality in marine mammals. A veterinary pathologist, Andrew Brownlow, found a small square of plastic in its stomach.

Andrew Brownlow told National Geographic, “They’re intelligent animals that seem to be able to distinguish between plastic and prey.” This incident highlights how prevalent plastic pollution is and indicates the vast scale of the problem. Even the most intelligent marine animals are becoming victims to this widespread dilemma.

This news came shortly after National Geographic announced their Planet or Plastic campaign, showing hard hitting images of what plastic is doing to our planet. Plastic is used so greatly in society, it is difficult to cause a shift in the way we use it. However, there is some hope that this may start to turn this around.

Encouragingly, a number of large businesses have agreed to make this happen. Top supermarkets and food companies across Britain are among the 42 companies committing to cut down on single use plastic packaging and boost their recycling rates. According to The Telegraph the companies who have committed to this pledge are responsible for 80% of all the plastic grocery packaging sold in the UK. The Environment Secretary for the UK, Michael Gove, said: “Our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste will only be realised if government, businesses and the public work together. Industry action can prevent excess plastic reaching our supermarket shelves in the first place.”

The sporting world is also making a bid to make a change. The Premier League has teamed up with Sky and have announced they will phase out their use of single use plastic and they hope to introduce a bottle return scheme in the near future.

The real test will be to see what impact this has on our Earth and how this will trickle down across global nations.

If you would like to explore themes of sustainability at the University of Sussex, find out more about our Sustainable Development MSc (online).

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