We all know by now that plastics are polluting our planet. Last year, single-use was Collin’s Dictionary’s ‘Word of the Year’, while several luxury and high-street giants committed to reducing their plastic usage. In the first study of its kind, researchers from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the University of Surrey, the University of Stirling and the Arctic University of Norway investigated the social and economic impact of plastics in the sea.
Plastic in the sea costs human society billions of dollars every year in damaged and lost resources, the new research in Marine Pollution Bulletin reports. Examining previous research in this field, researchers identified a number of key areas affecting society that are directly impacted by plastics in the marine ecosystem. For example fisheries, aquaculture, recreational activities and emotional wellbeing are negatively affected by the material.
Using this information, researchers estimate there will be a 1-5 per cent decline in marine ecosystem service delivery the value of all benefits humans derives from the oceans due to the disruption caused by plastics. This equates to an annual loss of $500-$2,500 billion in the value of benefits derived from the marine ecosystem globally. Researchers also considered cost per tonne of marine plastic, amounting to an annual cost in terms of reduced environmental value of between $3,300 and $33,000 per tonne of marine plastic (based on 2011 values).
Despite the overwhelmingly negative effects of plastics in the sea, researchers identified two organisms which benefit from their presence: bacteria and algae. Bacteria and algae exploit plastics to colonize their surfaces, a phenomenon that is also likely to have a widespread negative effect. As opposed to natural substrates that tend to degrade or sink relatively quickly, plastics are highly attractive to many opportunistic species and can remain in the upper ocean for long periods increasing their geographical range and heightening the risk of spreading invasive species and diseases around the world.
Dr Nicola Beaumont, lead author and Environmental Economist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, commented: “Our calculations are a first stab at putting a price on plastic. We know we have to do more research to refine, but we are convinced that already they are an underestimate of the real costs to global human society.
“Knowing this price can help us make informed decisions: recycling a tonne of plastic costs us hundreds against the costs of thousands if we let it into the marine environment; we now trade carbon to reduce emissions to the atmosphere, so we should be able to do something similar with plastics. We hope this study will highlight the reality of the plastic problem in human terms.”
Dr Kayleigh Wyles, Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey, said: “As well as the devastating effect plastics have on our ecological and marine systems, they also, directly and indirectly, impact society. However, until now we have not been able to holistically demonstrate these impacts. Quantifying the enormous tangible and intangible costs associated with marine plastic waste can only help to make the case for devoting our attention and resources now to protecting the seas for future generations to enjoy.”
So which are the brands tackling plastic? Here are 5 brands who have been awarded the Butterfly Mark for their commitments to cutting their use down:
At the start of 2019, IWC Schaffhausen took New Year’s resolutions seriously, in an act that has finally been made public after weeks of keeping their promise quiet: the Swiss watchmaker pledged to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, undertaking to eliminate plastic they don’t need. A new initiative by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, they have signed on the dotted line to ensure all plastic they do use is 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable regarding packaging and all by 2025.
This hospitality brand allows luxury nomads to travel mindfully. All travel documents are all digitized to save on paper, while they provide guests with reusable water bottles and backpacks crafted from ocean waste, asking them to refrain from using single-use plastic on their trip.
With a mindful take on the environment, this line of science-led skincare products has been plastic-free since 2009, while they also use glass jars to package their range where 30% of it is recycled.
BAUME is committed to working with NGOs such as Waste Free Oceans. Waste Free Oceans builds partnerships with local communities and fishermen to ensure that waste is collected from oceans, rivers and beaches. In turn, the ocean plastic is transformed into fabrics that enable Baume to create a modern, recycled, and recyclable products all while helping them to do their part in cleaning the oceans, one watch at a time.
The Maison has created new FSC certified packaging for their customers, incorporating folded boxes which enable them to ship less volume and optimise storage space. A shopping bag launched in 2017 for the Vendome flagship opening in Paris was manufactured with a unique paper that replaced 25% of the wood fibres with vegetable-tanned leather off-cuts that had been ground down to a powder. The bag remains recyclable and compostable. The fragments of matter visible on the surface give it a natural appearance, which is complemented by being very soft to the touch.
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