#plasticgate matters and we need to be better tourists

Our life is plastic. We are plastic. I’ve worn plastic most days of my life since I was sixteen (and probably before then) because I wear contact lenses. Like me, you’ve probably benefited from the conveniences of the modern world throughout your whole life.

We love it. It makes our existence easy and comfy and clean. But we’ve made havoc to our ecosystems. Go on any hike and you’ll see trash littering the trails – cigarette butts, water bottles, wrappers, left-over cutlery – and don’t even get me started on the beach. 

This is #plasticgate.

Some stats suggest that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.
Some stats suggest that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

Recently I spent a weekend in Menorca and while I loved every minute of it, I arrived home with a heavy heart. My friends and I went to one of the most idyllic beaches on the island (Platja Macarelleta) only to find the waters carrying infinite plastics of all sizes. My friend Pablo is a living and breathing superhero and took it upon himself to start cleaning the shore.

Pablo holding the trash we collected that day.
My friend Pablo holding the trash we collected that day.

A few days later in Mallorca, my mother and filled a bag with shore trash in less than 15 minutes. So it got me wondering. Is this the legacy of our generation? Is it our fault?

Most of the plastic we picked up in Menorca looked old, as if it had resurfaced with the current (very common in the Mediterranean) but nonetheless it begs the question of accountability. I’m not exactly a journalist, so I turned to Google for research.

It turns out that we need to wake up. We needed to yesterday. The WWF has recently published their 2019 report and the picture they paint is terrifying and disgusting:

  • 0.57 million tonnes of plastic enters Mediterranean waters every year. This is equivalent to 33,800 plastic bottles.
  • Losses attributed to plastic pollution swim around €641 million a year, affecting tourism businesses the most (around €268 million per year).
  • Over 50% of plastic becomes waste within a year of being produced, and most of this is never recycled or reused. 15% of this waste is uncollected and potentially leaked into nature.
  • Each year, people living in the Mediterranean region are ingesting more and more plastic from food and drinking water, with the full effects still unknown.

In layman’s terms, we’re destroying the planet, it costs us and the economy, and not only is this waste reaching the oceans but we end up eating it, too.

How to be a better tourist right now

At the peak of duckweed season, Grand Union Canal is littered with trash.
Plastic pollution affects tourism outside of the Med. At the peak of duckweed season, Grand Union Canal is littered with trash.

Plastic waste is not all down to individual action. In fact, most plastic waste comes from industrial fishing but we can still do our bit. Usher the 4 Rs into your life:

1. Reduce

This has to be the first step. Stop buying. Question your choices. Cook at home and ditch the sushi box. Sit in a restaurant instead of asking for take-out. 

2. Reuse

Invest in products that will last a long time, but particularly those you will use every day like a travel mug, a reusable bottle and a lunch box. If you have to buy single-use plastics, make them multi-use. Turn water bottles into plant feeders, or refill them as much as you can.

3. Recycle

Get informed and learn what your municipality and neighbourhood are able to recycle. Know where the collection points are and how to dispose of your waste unpolluted. 

4. Rebel

If ever, the most important. Vote, protest, demand change. Speak to your friends and colleagues and ask them to reconsider their choices (yes, I AM THAT person in the office) and show that you care. 

It’s easy to fall into the trope of “I’m only one person” but we’re all one person, and together we can make a difference. In Menorca, Pablo inspired me to write this article. How? I was complaining while he was cleaning up. In the public eye, Extinction Rebellion continues to speak out for all of us. We can do it.

If not for our nature, plants and animals, then do it for you and your children.

Where are you in the world? Do you see much plastic pollution? Let me know in the comments.

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