'A Scourge on Our Seas': UK Government Takes Aim at Single-Use Plastics
"Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now," Environment Secretary Michael Gove said. "We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on straws, stirrers and cotton buds to help protect our marine life."
"We've already seen a number of retailers, bars and restaurants stepping up to the plate and cutting plastic use, however it's only through government, businesses and the public working together that we will protect our environment for the next generation—we all have a role to play in turning the tide on plastic," Gove added.
The British government said it will work with manufacturers to develop alternatives to for the items and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt. It will also propose excluding plastic straws for medical reasons.
Scotland Readies Ban on Plastic Cotton Buds https://t.co/0sQfF0fQXQ #Scotland @NRDC @PlasticPollutes @Greenpeace… https://t.co/SUJmQW9qiC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515687765.0
On Sunday night, Prime Minister Theresa May announced her government would earmark £61.4 million towards cleaning the world's oceans of plastics. May is calling on all Commonwealth countries to sign up to the newly formed Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance, through which the funds will be directed, to stop plastic waste.
"Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting," May said about this week's summit.
We are clogging up one of the earth’s greatest natural resource with harmful plastic and – for the sake of this and… https://t.co/vTpScgT4jl— Theresa May (@Theresa May)1524133899.0
It's not just the UK government stepping up to fight plastic. Costa Coffee, the largest coffee chain in Britain with more than 2,000 stores, pledged on Wednesday to become the first to recycle the same volume of takeaway cups they put onto the market.
Even though these cups are mostly made of paper, these single-use items are almost never recycled or composted because they are lined with plastic.
In January, Iceland Foods, a major UK supermarket chain specializing in frozen food, committed to eliminating plastic packaging from its own brand of products by the end of 2023.
Efforts to curb plastic use really picked up after British naturalist Sir David Attenborough presented his 2017 BBC series Blue Planet II. The series, which called particular attention to the issue of ocean plastics, even prompted Queen Elizabeth II to ban plastic straws and bottles on all royal properties, including public cafes.
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By Julián García Walther
One morning in January, I found myself 30 feet up a tall metal pole, carrying 66 pounds of aluminum antennas and thick weatherproofed cabling. From this vantage point, I could clearly see the entire Punta Banda Estuary in northwestern Mexico. As I looked through my binoculars, I observed the estuary's sandy bar and extensive mudflats packed with thousands of migratory shorebirds frenetically pecking the mud for food.
There are currently few Motus stations in Mexico, leading to a large information gap. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Red knots and many other shorebirds travel thousands of miles from breeding grounds in the Arctic (left) to nonbreeding grounds in Latin America (right). Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Motus stations require a high vantage point that overlooks estuaries. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Any bird with a transmitter will be picked up if it flies within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of a Motus station. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND<h2>Tagging Birds</h2><p>The stations alone can't detect these animals. The final step, which will happen in the coming months, is to catch birds and tag them. To do this, our team will set up a soft, spring-loaded net called a whoosh net in sandy areas where the red knots rest above the high-tide line. When birds walk past the net, the crew leader will release the trigger, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwMiA2iqVc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">safely trapping the birds with the net</a>.</p>
WhooshNetCapture.MTS<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6440038cdc58961906f5fa164b457688"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vwMiA2iqVc0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The world's oceans and coastal ecosystems can store remarkable amounts of carbon dioxide. But if they're damaged, they can also release massive amounts of emissions back into the atmosphere.