The global initiative to reduce plastic waste is picking up traction both locally in the UK and worldwide. An unprecedented number of people have backed tough action against plastic waste in a UK government consultation that could pave the way in the near future.
The government has already banned microbeads from cosmetics and is exploring extending the plastic bag charge, as well as the possibility of supermarkets stocking products with plastic-free packaging. It is also examining a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds, as well as deposit return schemes to increase recycling.
But exactly how damaging is plastic to planet Earth?
Well, there are 500 times more pieces of microplastic in the sea than there are stars in our galaxy and by 2050 it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish. Since its invention in the 1950’s, we have produced about 8.3 billion metric tonnes of the stuff.
For some 79% of the plastic produced over the last 70 years has been throw away, either into landfill sites or into the general environment. Just 9% is recycled with the rest incinerated. This has been descried as “an uncontrolled experiment on a global scale” by scientists. As well as damaging wildlife populations on such a huge scale that in February this year the UN declared war on ocean plastic, it may also be contaminating the air we breathe.
Eventually, the layer of plastic spread around the world from the 1950’s onwards will form a noticeable line in the sedimentary rocks of the future. In the blink of an eye in the Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history, plastic has not only changed the fabric of life but the very rocks.
Global resort & residential brand Six Senses plan to operate completely free of plastic from 2022. They are already off to a great start, with some real innovations and ideas pioneering the industry.
Six Senses has been serious about reducing disposable plastic for many years, going back to the 1990s with their signature water bottled in glass, and more recently with the elimination of plastic straws from all their hotels in 2016. Many other hotel groups and industries are beginning to take up the cause.
The Plastic Free 2022 strategy sets out a bold target to be completely free of plastic from 2022. Starting with single-use and disposable plastic as top priority, Six Senses aim to carefully reduce exposure to this fossil-fuel based material for guests and communities, being mindful of its harmful impacts to wellness and wildlife. They will transition to natural compostable materials in some cases, and to high quality reusable materials in other cases. Having already inventoried all plastic items used in hotel and spa operations, they will measure their progress in terms of the number of plastic items they alone can eliminate from the world.
Sources: The Guardian, The Independent & Six Senses website