Game on! Plastics

“Unless we take radical action, there will be more plastic than fish in our waters by 2050” – Ellen MacArthur Foundation and World Economic Forum

Plastics are everywhere and we are overly reliant on them. This is despite them being a relatively recent development, emerging in the 1950s. We desperately need to use less of them.

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Our Plastic Fishing game is aimed at younger children and challenges them to catch a fish from each of the three oceans – each represents the world’s oceans through time, getting more polluted until finally there is more plastic than fish.

91 % of plastics are not recycled and it is estimated that by 2050 12 billion tonnes of it will have been buried in the ground at landfills. That’s the equivalent weight of 35,000 Empire State Buildings! The amount of plastic manufactured doubles every 15 years and in 2015 8 million tonnes of it went into the world’s oceans. If you turned those into plastic bags there’d be enough for one every 30 cm of the world’s coastlines.

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Much of the plastic pollution in the oceans was originally dropped on land. Rivers, and especially floods, are what carries that plastic out to sea. The EmRiver River in a Box uses a recycled plastic ‘sand’ so is ideally for demonstrating how rivers transport plastic.

480 billion plastic bottles were used worldwide in 2016. The average UK household will get through 480 of them a year but will recycle just 270. Half of the UK’s plastic waste is shipped overseas to be recycled but this is not guaranteed and much of it still ends up in landfill.

Plastic bottles are commonly recycled into synthetic fibres to make into clothes, such as polyester fleeces, yet a single wash can release 700,000 micro-plastic fibres, or 1.7 grams every wash. These fibres get drained into the sea. Around the UK there are 70 pieces of plastic for every 100 grams of water, and every single UK mussel tested contained plastics.

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By looking at tumbledrier fluff under a digital microscope it is easy to spot how numerous plastic fibres are coming off washed clothes.

So what can we do?

We all need to reduce the amount of plastics we use. Sometimes you will need a plastic bottle or to use a plastic straw, but you can try to use alternatives when you can. Use a Keep-cup whenever you get a coffee to take-away and carry a re-usable water bottle with you. You can also get bags to do your laundry in to reduce the amount of plastic fibres washed away.

As a global society we need to become less reliant on plastics or make them more sustainable. We will work to help develop new materials and solutions and also help to better understand the impacts plastics have on the environment and wildlife.

Next level – Transport

Featured image by Edinburgh Greens used under Creative Commons License