The world’s oceans are becoming increasingly polluted by waste plastic, and organisations such as Sky are promoting campaigns to reduce this. The Sky Ocean Rescue campaign was launched on the 24th January 2017 with the aim of reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans by educating consumers about the impact their behaviour can have.
Single-use plastic presents a real problem, and in order to help the efforts to reduce plastic pollution, the Natural History Museum has stopped supplying plastic straws and now has plans to cease the sale of single-use water bottles.
At both the museum’s main site in South Kensington, West London, and in the branch of the Natural History Museum housed in the Walter Rothschild Building in Tring, Hertfordshire, the facilities, including the restaurants, will be assessed to see whether water can be supplied in different ways. Possible solutions that are being considered include asking visitors to bring their own water bottles or containers, supplying reusable bottles or installing water fountains. The museum is also looking about how plastic is used in general throughout its sites.
Another location planning to abandon the use of plastics is the Oval cricket ground, which aims to be plastic-free within the coming three years.
It is not only the Earth’s oceans that are polluted by plastic waste: rivers also suffer from plastic pollution. In conjunction with the Royal Holloway University of London, the Natural History Museum has previously undertaken research that showed how plastic waste has polluted the Thames and ended up in the stomachs of the river’s fish, although the extent of the pollution is generally not seen. The museum’s director of science, Professor Ian Owens, has said that scientific institutions such as the Natural History Museum have a vital role to play in leading the way in the protection of the environment.
Many marine species suffer devastating effects from plastic pollution that could be reduced if less plastic was produced and more plastic waste recycling was carried out. At present in the UK alone, millions of plastic bottles that are designed for single use are bought each day. Rather than going for plastic waste recycling, billions of these end up in the oceans each year, causing destruction to marine ecosystems and killing marine species worldwide.
The Natural History Museum attracts more than four and a half million visitors to its sites each year and can influence millions more throughout the world via its digital channels. The plan to stop the sale of single-use bottles for water is seen as joining the movement to reduce the amount of plastic that pollutes the seas and towards a change in lifestyle towards a more sustainable culture where plastic recycling and reuse is the preferred option.
Existing methods of plastic waste disposal such as the use of landfill add to the general increase in pollution worldwide, and it is only by institutions such as Sky and the Natural History Museum taking the lead that a widespread change can be effected.