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'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.
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.
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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Britain has been battered by back-to-back major storms in consecutive weekends, which flooded streets, submerged rail lines, and canceled flights. The most recent storm, Dennis, forced a group of young climate activists to cancel their first ever national conference, as CBS News reported.
At the 56th Munich Security Conference in Germany, world powers turned to international defense issues with a focus on "Westlessness" — the idea that Western countries are uncertain of their values and their strategic orientation. Officials also discussed the implications of the coronavirus outbreak, the Middle East and the Libya crisis.
The climate crisis wreaks havoc on animals and plants that have trouble adapting to global heating and extreme weather. Some of the most obvious examples are at the far reaches of the planet, as bees disappear from Canada, penguin populations plummet in the Antarctic, and now polar bears in the Arctic are struggling from sea ice loss, according to a new study, as CNN reported.
- We can all take steps to reduce the environmental impact of our work-related travels.
- Individual actions — like the six described here — can cumulatively help prompt more collective changes, but it helps to prioritize by impact.
- As the saying goes: be the change you want to see in the world.