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International Plastic Bag Free Day - Would you like a bag with that?

Posted: Monday 3rd July 2017 by Zoe-Stevenson

International Plastic Bag Free DayInternational Plastic Bag Free Day

For International Plastic Bag Free Day 2017 we’re reflecting on the impact that single-use plastic bags have had on our natural environment and how we can all get involved in helping us break free from plastic.

Would you like a bag with that?

Once upon a time you might have said ‘yes’ to the above question without much thought. Nowadays though, the 5 pence charge on plastic bags means people increasingly have their own with them, already prepared to take their shopping home in the nice tote bag they bought from their favourite charity.

Perhaps you are one of the people who made the change without much thought, or perhaps you always brought your own bags, and are pleased to see people happily walking down the high street, reusable bags in hand. But why bother to make the change in the first place?

The power of the plastic problem

In the year before the 5 pence charge was introduced, England went through more than 7 billion single-use plastic bags. That’s around 140 per person.

The truth is plastic bags were strangling our environment. In the year before the 5 pence charge was introduced, England went through more than 7 billion single-use plastic bags. That’s around 140 per person.

These single-use bags, normally discarded as soon as the shopper arrived home, ended up in our fields, our rivers, and our oceans. They remain intact for hundreds of years, and even then they never disappear, they simply break up into smaller and smaller pieces. Perhaps you’ve heard the term ‘micro-plastics’ recently. These are pieces of plastic so small plankton are eating them. They’re made of the remnants of any plastic that has ever been discarded, including plastic bags.

This isn’t just a UK-based problem either. Ocean currents and winds can take litter away from our shores and to the other side of the world. They can be at sea for years before washing up on beaches on islands we’ve never even heard of. While they are on their oceanic voyage they pose a risk to marine animals. Plastic bags floating upside down the water bear an uncanny resemblance to jellyfish, and sea turtles, who cannot tell the difference between the two, fill their stomachs with plastic bags instead of food.

Breaking Free From Plastic

More than 1 billion plastic bags still used in the England every yearAlthough plastic bag usage has dropped by around 80% since 2015, that leaves over one billion used each year in England alone. Which is still a lot of plastic entering our environment.

International Plastic Bag Free Day is the perfect opportunity to discover how easy life is without single-use plastic bags. Start by taking your own with you when you go shopping, whether it is clothes shopping or grocery shopping. Say no to plastic bags for smaller items that you can easily carry in your hands. You’ll soon find that your day is over without you so much as having looked at a plastic bag!

If you already use your own bags when shopping there are still ways for you to get involved. Lend a family member or friend a reusable bag so they can see how easy it is, or get involved in a beach clean to help keep plastic from being swept back out to sea.

Protecting Kent’s coast with Guardians of the Deep

Kent Wildlife Trust’s new partnership project Guardians of the Deep was designed with the long-term stewardship of our oceans in mind. It is setting up a network of Coastal Guardians all around the Kent coast. These volunteers will help protect the ocean by reporting wildlife sightings, keeping an eye out for pollution, and participating in (or organising) beach cleans.

Since the project launched at the beginning of May 2017, they have already carried out two beach cleans and trained almost 20 Coastal Guardians, with two more training sessions planned for the immediate future.

If you would like to get involved in the Guardians of the Deep project, simply register as a Coastal Guardian here and a project officer will be in touch.


How can I celebrate International Plastic Bag Free Day 2017?

Safeguarding our oceans from plastic bag pollution is something anyone can do, no matter how close or far from the coast they live. International Plastic Bag Free Day is a great place to start. Here are Kent Wildlife’s Trust top tips for celebrating the day:

  1. Don’t use any plastic bags! If you already use a bag-for-life look for any other places in your daily life you use plastic bags. How about buying loose fruit and veg instead of pre-packed ones?
  2. Tell your friends and family. Let everyone know how and why you are celebrating International Plastic Bag Free Day and encourage them to get involved too.
  3. Participate in a beach clean or litter pick. Help remove plastic and plastic bags from the marine environment by getting them off the shore and into a bin where they belong! If you can’t find one happening near you, why not contact your local council and organise one yourself?

Have fun on International Plastic Bag Free Day, and if you take any photos, please let us see them by tagging us @kentwildlife on Twitter or @GuardiansoftheDeep on Facebook and Instagram.

To find out more about International Plastic Bag Free Day visit https://www.plasticbagfreeday.org/

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