Having very recently just adopted a plastic straw ban in Santa Barbara, our use of plastic and where it ends up is on our minds more than usual right now. The ban is due to come into force and will apply to food providers from July 1, 2019. It is part of an overarching effort to protect the marine environment, not just in the surrounding area but all over the world. Santa Barbara is following the lead of nine other Californian cities, including Malibu, Santa Monica, and Manhattan Beach.
As a fish and environmental enthusiast, I believe that this is a fantastic step forward in reducing plastic waste and thereby protecting the vibrant marine life that borders Santa Barbara.
Over 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year, and over half of that is single use. Researchers from UC Santa Barbara found that currently between 4.8 million, to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic is entering the ocean every single year.
A few years ago, we knew that plastic was entering the ocean, but we didn’t really know the extent of it because it’s out of sight, out of mind. However, after more and more events of whales and seabirds washing up dead with stomachs full of plastic, and videos surfacing of poor sea creatures such as turtles being misshapen after becoming tangled in plastic, we can no longer turn a blind eye to the impact we are having on our oceans.
Our oceans should be full of vibrant aquatic life, from beautifully patterned mandarinfish to vibrantly colored angelfish. Turtles and whales should be able to swim freely, without getting caught up in a big sea of plastic mess.
Unfortunately, not only do they have to put up with swimming with plastic around them, but a lot of micro plastic particles also get into their digestive systems when they either accidently eat a piece of plastic which looks like food to them or they consume the tiny microbeads that are in so many of our products.
So what else can you do to help reduce the amount of plastic which is entering the sea, not just in Santa Barbara, but also around the rest of the world?
Use a Reusable Shopping Bag
Over 1 trillion plastic shopping bags are used every year, and many of these end up in the ocean, being mistaken as jelly fish and eaten by turtles and other sea life. By using a reusable shopping bag you will create less of a demand for single-use plastic bags. Considering how cheap they are — and you probably already own a backpack you could use — you’ll probably find this a cheaper option in the long run!
Don’t Use Products with Microbeads
Millions of plastic microbeads are washed down the drain each year as we use them in facial scrubs, cosmetics and cleaning products. These microbeads pose a devastating effect to the wildlife in the marine environment.
With recent bans on products being made with microbeads, it makes it much easier to find products that are free from them.
Use a Refillable Water Bottle
There are so many different reusable water bottles available, and you can fill your bottle up pretty much anywhere. Not only will you be saving another plastic bottle from entering the ocean, but you’ll be saving so much money in the long run.
Around 20,000 plastic bottles are being produced every second across the globe.
Avoid Food and Snacks with Plastic Packaging
We know it’s really convenient when you’re having a really busy day, and you don’t have any time to nip home and make something tasty for lunch, if you buy a sandwich and some fruit which has been pre-cut. The problem is, though, that a large percentage of this waste cannot be recycled and ends up in our oceans. By spending just a few minutes each evening preparing your lunch and snacks for the next day, you can cut down the amount of waste you create by buying convenience food.
Again, not only is this an environment saver, but also a money saver for you too!
If It’s Plastic, Think Twice
For any product that you buy, whether it’s a toothbrush, a razor, a container for your food, think about whether there is an alternative available to you that isn’t plastic. Quite often you’ll find that there is. For example you can buy bamboo toothbrushes, metal razors, and glass containers for your food.
All the little choices that you make will make a huge difference in protecting the many lives that are currently being threatened in the oceans.
Santa Barbara has made a fantastic step in the right direction, in introducing this plastic straw ban. Living so close to the coast, Santa Barbara is a great place to set the example to the rest of the world and become one of the leading cities that reduces plastic waste and encourages a more sustainable lifestyle.
Robert Woods is editor of Fish Keeping World and a frequent visitor to Santa Barbara.