Humans are facing a stark threat. A land mass five times the size of North Korea is growing in the Pacific, posing as possibly one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or Wasteland as it is otherwise known, is a vast area of man-made marine debris rapidly growing from the plastics we throw away every day.
Production of plastic has sky-rocketed since its widespread introduction in the 1950s, with more plastic was produced between 2002 and 2012 than in the whole of the previous century, indeed more than in all of time before that. Shockingly, eight million individual pieces of plastic make their way towards oceanic gyres every day and, as plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years, it is predicted there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050. In the UK, we have found that the average person consumer 23kg of single-use plastic equivalent of 1,212 Coca Cola bottles or 4,600 plastic forks every year.
But why should we be worried? Plastic waste is not only aesthetically destructive to our coastlines, but it's having a dangerous impact on marine ecosystems - the lifeline for communities around the world. Driven by our throwaway plastic culture, nanoparticles from plastic waste are creating vast whirlpools of ocean sludge such as Wasteland killing plankton, contaminating the food chain, and resulting in harmful chemicals making their way into supermarket food.
The sheer scale of this challenge can sometimes make us feel helpless and powerless, overwhelmed by the relentless plastic barrage that lands daily on our favourite beaches. But, as is so often the case, it is in the face of great adversity that stories of hope, solidarity, community and unity emerge. For every action, there is a reaction.
As individuals and communities, we've never had so many opportunities to respond. We are not powerless and we have the chance to react through our choices and actions. The reaction to Wasteland is one of community, hope and empowerment. Inspired by the Fairtrade Towns and Transition Towns movements, and reflecting the community spirit of the Dig For Victory ethos, we are calling on people to unite to tackle plastic pollution and #JoinTheResistance against Wasteland and for Plastic Free Coastlines.
To complement the global beach clean movement which we have helped lead over the last decade, contributing an estimated 10 million minutes of volunteering time given to removing plastic pollution this year alone, we are calling for everyone to help us move the plastic solutions upstream. The sooner we as communities can intervene on the linear journey throwaway plastics take from consumption to coastline, the less damage they can do and the more likely they can be reused and repurposed. Eliminating unnecessary plastic and encouraging appropriate replacements where possible is now vital.
By resisting single-use or throwaway plastic culture, we can all use our consumer choices to not only reduce our plastic footprint, but also influence government and businesses on the changes that we'd like to see in our communities. As advocates for a world with less throwaway plastic, we must take business and industry with us. We must encourage them to become part of the Resistance too. Advocating a circular economy where plastic is trapped in the economy and reused time and time again by society, rather than ending up contaminating the very water that is fundamental to life, is also crucial whilst plastics are redesigned or replaced with truly sustainable alternatives.
Using the Plastic Free Coastlines community toolkit, Surfers Against Sewage aims to help unite inspirational community groups, campaigners, NGOs, businesses and leaders in reducing their collective plastic footprint.
You may already part of the resistance with the actions you take daily; refilling your water bottle; taking you re-usable coffee cup to the local café; refusing single-use carrier bags at the checkout and maybe even encouraging local businesses to reduce their plastic footprint.
We want to connect and amplify these actions globally. And we believe that the only way to do this and to challenge the ever-increasing production of plastic is at the grassroots level.
For more information, please visit: www.plasticfree.org.uk