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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Banning plastic in the House of Commons

With the UK Government poised to launch new initiatives to tackle the scourge of single use plastics it is good to see that the House of Commons is to follow suit.

It is now likely that plastic knives and forks will be banned from the various eateries on the Parliamentary estate. Apparently, MPs and their staff used 398,000 pieces of disposable cutlery to eat their meals last year and one million plastic cups and lids.

Anybody who saw a recent BBC documentary will know how much plastic waste has ended up in the Arctic ice. Research shows that up to 234 particles have been found concentrated into just one litre of melted Arctic sea ice. That's much higher than in the open ocean.

Scientists are worried about the impact on Arctic wildlife if the particles are released as sea ice continues to shrink:

Geir Wing Gabrielsen, one of the paper's authors, told BBC News: "We are finding more and more plastic waste in Svalbard, where I work. "The northern fulmar breeds in Svalbard.

"At the end of the 1970s we found very few plastic in their stomachs. In 2013 when we last investigated, some had more than 200 pieces of plastic in their stomachs.

"Other creatures are getting entangled in nets washed up on beaches - like reindeer. Some die because they can't release their antlers - we find them every year."

He said in southern Norway pollution was dominated by plastics from the home - but in Svalbard 80% of it comes from fishing activities, local and distant.

It is right that MPs put their own house in order and follow the example of the Welsh Assembly where tea and coffee are served in reusable china mugs and proper metal cutlery is provided for diners. The question is can we get others to follow suit.
I am delighted to see a reduction in plastic waste. Like burning oil as a fuel for cars, plastic waste has always seemed a bit daft. Isn't there a better way of achieving your objective?

However I do not perceive how the "ban on plastic" at Westminster will significantly reduce plastic at sea or in the environment generally. How many plastic cups go down the Thames?

According to a web site which I do not fully trust, https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/blogs/ocean-plastic-rivers , ten rivers in Asia and Africa contribute most ocean plastics.

If claims on that site are "about true" -- and noting that the Chinese government has ended imports of UK plastic waste -- what about now? What happens to the plastic waste which councils may honestly believe will be processed safely and ethically? The stuff that they can't send to China? Have people been caught up with the idea that a waste problem can be exported?
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