Time to get tough on our plastic bottles

In the UK, we recycle only around 57 per cent of our plastic bottles. This means that 5.5 billion plastic bottles end up in landfill, incinerators or as litter each year.
In the UK, we recycle only around 57 per cent of our plastic bottles. This means that 5.5 billion plastic bottles end up in landfill, incinerators or as litter each year.

Water, Water Everywhere…

In the UK, we recycle only around 57 per cent of our plastic bottles.

This means that 5.5 billion plastic bottles end up in landfill, incinerators or as litter each year. An estimated 700,000 plastic bottles are littered every day in the UK. Around half of these are water bottles. In an era where plastic will outweigh fish in the sea by 2050, we have to cut down on our use of plastic bottles.

Why are we paying for bottled water when tap water is free? All we need to do is get into the habit of taking our own reusable water bottles out with us. It saves a fortune and tap water contains no calories so you don’t need to worry about your waistline, or the kids getting hyper on a sugar rush.

A typical small 500ml bottle of Dr Pepper contains 24g of sugar. That’s six teaspoons, and the maximum recommended daily intake for a child. Some energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine in addition to sugar, which can be harmful to children.

So our challenge this month is to stop buying bottled pop and water. If you feel you can’t, then reduce instead, and ensure you recycle as much as possible. If you are eating out, ask for a jug of tap water if the only alternatives are plastic bottled drinks. It shouldn’t be frowned upon and you can explain you are saving the environment (as well as your purse). And please don’t use plastic straws. We are campaigning to get rid of them, as our beaches are littered with straws too.

What is our Government doing about the problem? Despite Michael Gove being “haunted” and “moved” by the recent media images, he still hasn’t announced any firm plan to tackle the issue. Will he bottle out of the return and deposit scheme? In his words, “watch this space”. We can’t afford to watch his space. The Scottish Government has already committed to the scheme, so why can’t we?

It’s great to see the return and deposit scheme working well in Norway, where the recycling rate is 97 per cent. The consumer pays a deposit on every bottle and if the bottle is returned empty, the machine reads the barcode and produces a coupon for the deposit. It reminds me of when we used to return the empty glass pop bottles and get 10p back.

It’s also great to see Northumbria Water on board with the campaign to reduce plastic bottles. It has joined forces with the Refill campaign to encourage businesses to promote free tap water, with Refill stations in cafes, bars and restaurants. Customers and passers-by will be able to take in their own water bottle and fill it up for free. If successful, the scheme rolled out nationally could see a reduction in millions of plastic bottles. Any business interested should look up www.refill.ork.uk
The Great British Spring Clean campaign was extended to March 25 due to the adverse weather conditions. Any school clean up can still be arranged. Our LitterBugs were lucky to get out before the snow hit. On February 25, 28 people turned out at Amble beach and dunes and together collected 31 sacks of litter. This was one hour of picking, which shows the extent of the problem. It was a great day, with 16 people staying for Sunday lunch at the Storehouse, with free desserts for the kids.

Our next group litter pick will be at 10.30am on Sunday, April 22. As we picked so much litter in such a small place last time, we will continue with Amble beach and dunes. Meet at the last car park out of Amble heading towards Hauxley, opposite the Amble caravan park.

Finally, thanks to the cafes in Warkworth, who confirmed they are no longer using plastic straws. We hope places in Amble and Alnwick will follow. Thanks also to those who contacted us via LitterBugs Facebook page or by email to litterbugsnorthumberland@gmail.com – we welcome any ideas and feedback.