Plastic oceans and our health: What we can do

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(Image via @popupdocs)

Ruby the Climate Kid may be only six-years-old, but she is on a mission to educate and influence the global community to wake up to the scientifically proven, devastating effects of pollution on our oceans and our health. Today, she inspires us to make small changes and #saynotoplastic.

DURING the school holidays, I watched a documentary called A Plastic Ocean and I had to watch a whale die a slow and painful death.

The whale died of malnutrition from his digestive system being blocked by six metres worth of plastic.

I cried, but I didn’t look away. I think too many people look away and ignore what is happening to our planet and all of the amazing creatures in the ecosystems we are destroying.

I knew how terrible plastic was before watching this documentary, but when you see a whale die or see animals struggling with plastic bags around their fins or their shells, constricted by a piece of plastic, it really does show you just how bad things are. I had trouble breathing when I saw the whale gasping for breath an, when I saw the waste facility with all that plastic waste going to landfill I felt sick, because I know it will emit terrible gases to make our environment even sicker than it already is.

The documentary got me thinking: if we are throwing away so much plastic, why isn’t it being recycled? How much are we using? Are there alternatives?

Did you know that we use over 300 million tonnes of new plastic every year and most of that is single-use, used for an average of 12 minutes and then thrown away? Eight million tonnes of that plastic waste ends up in the ocean.

Over 500 billion plastic bags are used every year worldwide, with more than one million every minute. We have produced more plastic in the last ten years than in the whole of the last century.

This production of single-use plastic is creating an environmental catastrophe and people continue using and consuming, and ignoring the global environmental impact. This cannot continue to be ignored and the proof is all around us.

Think about it — do you use straws? Do you celebrate birthdays with plastic party plates and cups? Do you buy bottled water? Take a walk through the supermarket and see how many items are in plastic when an alternative can and should be used.

Over 600 species of sea life are proven to suffer directly from plastic pollution. Birds consume plastic and an increasing number starve when their stomachs are full of plastic waste. Over 90 per cent of seabirds worldwide have plastic pieces in their stomachs.

Not only does the plastic cause death and health problems for sea life but, as it breaks into smaller pieces (also called micro plastic), it enters into the human food chain, introducing chemicals that are known to cause cancer among people who eat fish containing microplastic.

Why do we continue to use plastic despite the terrible effect it is having on our ocean, sea life and our own health? Because it is cheap and because we continue to look away when the consequences are right in front of us.

We need to make better choices.

Starting with me. Starting with you. Starting with our families and our homes.

Every choice we make can make a difference because small things done on a large scale will send a message and force companies to make different choices also. I have gone through my pantry at home and written to large companies to stop using plastic packaging. I have also had conversations with my parents about making different shopping choices and, even though it is more expensive, they have agreed with me to make changes at home.

I am also creating, with the help of my parents, reusable tote bags and beeswax wraps so more people can say no to plastic (#saynotoplastic), not only to have people stop using cling film but to showcase the importance of bees for our future on this planet. My mum loves drinking from straws but I don’t let her use plastic straws anymore — she uses stainless steel straws.

There are so many ways each of us can make a difference and we need to remember that companies and the government want us to continue using plastic because it is cheap and they can then continue exploiting the planet for oil, but if we all stop using single-use plastic and start making smarter choices, the need for oil reduces.

And don’t get me started on the need for renewable energy.

I asked Mum about why the Government continues to make decisions that are hurting our planet and I won’t say what she said but I think that there are enough of us that are angry that the planet is so sick and disappointed that the smart choices are not being made. Scientists are being ignored and having to march on the streets to prove a point that they have already proven with science. The Government needs to stop acting as though science is an opinion when it is proven facts.

Fact: Our planet is sick — science has proven this.

Fact: We can reduce our impact upon the planet by making different choices.

Fact: Governments (not just our government, but many) continues to ignore the science of climate change and overproduction of plastic.

I don’t know how to run a country and I may not understand everything about money, the economy and things like that, but I do know that I don’t want to see more sealife deaths. I don’t want to see pollution levels killing more people every year. I don’t want to see water levels continue to rise because of climate change. I do not want to see the death of our Great Barrier Reef.

I just want our leaders to make the obvious choice — a moral choice as Mum says. But until then, it is up to us.

Please join me and make our efforts amount to something great.

Follow Ruby the Climate Kid on YouTube and Facebook, as well as on Twitter @theclimatekid. Ruby is also selling beeswax wrapssnack bags and tote bags in the Independent Australia shop.

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