Plastic inflatables are a common sight in the summer holidays in pools and on beaches in holiday areas. They are not just popular with children; adults also enjoy using lilos and other inflatables. Many of these pool inflatables are quite durable and can be used year after year but, unfortunately, fashion and the popularity of posting pictures on social media mean that many people prefer to buy new inflatables each year.
Every season, new designs are produced and certain types of inflatable become popular. Recently, unicorns have been enjoying a wave of popularity, but pool inflatables are available in many designs including swans, flamingos and crocodiles as well as traditional boats and lilos.
Reusing your existing pool inflatable next season is obviously the best way of limiting holiday waste, but if it has become punctured and cannot be repaired, plastic recycling means that it can be kept out of landfill and continue to have a useful life.
Many people simply discard damaged swimming inflatables and they are often abandoned on beaches. This can cause harm to marine life in various ways, with sea creatures becoming entangled with plastic waste or ingesting it. There are various groups dedicated to beach cleaning who collect tonnes of waste plastic every year, but much of it still finds its way into the ocean where it can do a great deal of environmental damage.
Even when plastic waste is collected and disposed of responsibly, it has a considerable environmental impact when it is added to landfill, because fossil fuels are used in the transportation and production of these items.
Many plastic inflatables are manufactured from polyvinyl chloride or PVC. This is a strong, long-lasting and durable material. When it is sent for plastic recycling, it can be used in the manufacture of recycled packaging or pipes. Because PVC is such a durable material, it is ideal for recycling and reuse so rather than simply abandoning your old inflatables or throwing them in the household waste, check out your local plastic recycling facilities.
A recent innovation in plastic recycling was launched on the Isle of Wight by husband and wife team Steven Lovell and Georgia Wyatt-Lovell. In 2017, they set up a company to collect unwanted inflatables and upcycle them into accessories. To date, they have succeeded in preventing more than 100 tonnes of plastic from going to landfill. Some people request that their inflatables are turned into accessories such as bags and the colourful polyvinyl chloride from the inflatables makes for very attractive items. Some even have emotional significance for their owners, such as the woman who wanted an inflatable flamingo on which she was proposed to make into a bag.
Another initiative is the construction of an installation on a North Devon beach created from abandoned inflatables. The charity, Plastic Free North Devon, has liaised with an artist to produce the work that aims to raise awareness of the problem of “unconscious consumerism”.
If you don’t intend to put your pool inflatable away for next season, ensure that it remains useful by recycling or upcycling the plastic rather than adding to the growing problem of environmental pollution.