IN THE last five weeks I have been averaging one interview a week for radio listeners wanting to talk about plastic. Indeed earlier this year I wrote about single use plastic in our local supermarkets and proposed that we tried to shop in a way that uses as little plastic as possible. Since writing, many people have asked the question-just how big is the problem? I have also been asked if there is anything else Hampshire residents can do.

First let’s think about the size of the problem. Already our oceans contain almost as much plastic as fish. Over the next decade we will almost certainly reach a point where the weight of plastic in the seas becomes greater than the weight of all living organisms in the water. We will also get to the place where the amount of sea surface covered in plastic waste reaches the size of the whole of Western Europe (it is already several times the size of France). At some point in the life times of our children or grandchildren fish stocks will probably crash and our oceans will no longer support substantial life. That is the reality of the current direction of travel.

But all is far from lost. If we are going to collectively reverse the current trends, then we will all have to become far more radical in our approach to plastic. It will mean no more straws when out for dinner; no cotton wool buds (they have plastic handles) and no wet wipes (which when flushed away breakdown into tiny particles of plastic)…….

The reality of life without plastic is that it will impact directly some of our behaviours. Losing straws, wet wipes and cotton buds are small sacrifices when compared to losing entire fish populations; or dolphin, whales and shark. Many companies are busy looking at alternatives. For example, it will be possible to replace current wet wipes with their high plastic content-with a biodegradable alternative. We may also end up with corn starch straws and plastic free food packaging……

So all this means we need to be willing to change fast. We don’t have the luxury of time. Because we can’t actually see the damage our lifestyles are having from the comfort of our homes, it is easy to ignore the problem. But a time is coming soon when it will be impossible to ignore and by then it will be too late to act. Just a few days ago an environment charity looked at the River Thames at low tide; and in an area half the size of a tennis court they found over 5,000 wet wipes that had been flushed down the loo. Each one will add to the plastic in the sea and help to create one of the biggest threats our planet has faced in modern times.

So, let’s make Hampshire plastic free. At every opportunity let’s say no to retailers who sell things wrapped in plastic. Lets ditch the plastic single use cup; the single use plastic bottle, plastic toothbrushes, let’s move away from plastic straws and cotton buds; wet wipes and free plastic restaurant toys and move towards a future in which we can really purchase wisely and do our bit for our oceans!