A life without plastic, do it for the whales

How convenient is plastic right? That’s why it was invented in the first place, to make things easier in our lives and to make a substance that has so many uses and forms that it would have been hard to imagine at the time of the creation of the first ever plastics. There are plastics so thin they can wrap around things, rock hard plastics that can be more durable than glass, plastics that are heat proof, plastics that can be liquid and plastics in the smallest little micro beads, but what did we do before plastics were invented in 1907? How did we carry things around with us without plastic bags? How did we take food out with us on the go without tupperware? How did we run our kitchens and bathrooms without our multitude of throwaway plastic items? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not so difficult to live a life without plastic, and some of the many compelling reasons why you should do it.

The reason that the topic, are we overusing and abusing plastics, is in the forefront of our mind right now is because of the recently brought to light cuvier’s beaked whale on the coasts of Scotland, who was found with 4kg of plastic inside its stomach. It turns out however, there have been many other whales found in this way, with plastic compacted in every area of their stomach and intestines, on one occasion over 30 pieces of plastic were taken out of a whale’s stomach, after it had consequentially had to be humanely euthanised when it had been stranded due to the extreme pain that it was most likely to be in. The reason, I’m sure you have guessed, that the whales have ingested so much plastic, is because of the alarming rate that we as humans are dumping plastic into our oceans. The whales mistake these floating plastic bags and tarpaulin for food sources such as jellyfish and squid, you can see the resemblance in the way these two would move around in the sea. It’s not only the fact that the plastic becomes impacted into their guts, causing them great pain that is the bad part about plastics, the items the whale has eaten will be slowly poisoning the animal, because of the leaching of chemicals that are used in the plastic-making process, making their way into the whales blood stream and cells.

Plastic whale. Found to have 30 plastic bags in it's stomach

Humans have always been irresponsible with the earth that we have been given and would deny the cause being themselves and their reckless behaviour when the consequences come to call, stating things like ‘But I’ve only ever done that {thing} once or twice’ or ‘I didn’t even know it would affect anything’, however in this case, who can deny that it is purely our negligence that has caused this suffering to not only whales but other marine life that have been either trapped inside pieces of plastic, received injuries because of plastic, or indeed those who have ingested it.

There are a fair few items that we use today, made out of plastic when it does not have to be so. For instance, the obvious culprit, the basic plastic bag, nobody needs to use these, ever, bags exist in canvas and cotton forms for all of your shopping needs. Even if you think you will recycle it later, please reconsider. Other not so obvious consumer products that we use every day are shower gels in plastic bottles, instead of the humble bar of soap, disposable plastic razors that some people throw away after a single use instead of the old fashioned reusable stainless steel safety razor (which will, in fact, give you a closer shave and be cheaper in the long run) and plastic toothbrushes instead of compostable bamboo handled toothbrushes. Did you know that every single toothbrush that has ever been made of plastic, since the day of its creation in the early 1900’s still exists today? Inside our landfills and most probably our oceans, the first toothbrushes have still not degraded. These are only small changes you could make in your bathroom, however, what about other areas of the home. In the kitchen, for example, you could make the move to using fully metal pots and pans, a glass blender instead of a plastic one, glass mason jars to replace plastic tupperware inside the fridge and stopping the use of clingfilm entirely, instead you can use a plate resting on top of the food or a reusable cotton bowl cover. In your daily lives also you can refuse the use of plastic straws from bars and restaurants, as these end up in the ocean and famously get stuck up the noses of turtles. You can stop buying plastic bottles and coffee cups and replace them with a reusable metal or glass version and you can boycott all cosmetic products that contain microbeads such as face wash and some kinds of toothpaste. Plastic is only good for the companies who make it.

All these things we can do, and could have been doing for many years, but people would rather champion convenience than help to protect the environment. What people don’t realise is that switching to these reusable examples I have given is just as easy as their single-use counterparts and overall the payment you make to buy your way out of the plastic life in the first place, repays you heavily in the number of single-use items you are not buying any more, so in my mind, it’s definitely worth it.

When these whales have died, they swam to our shores to do so, and brought with them an important and tragic message. Save our oceans, save our lives.

You can find out more about the effort to clean our oceans of plastic and what you can do to help at www.plasticwhale.com Use less, do more. Litter kills animals.

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