Plastics are greatly relied upon in practically every industry, business and household. Look around you right now and chances are you’ll see something made out of some sort of plastic. In many ways it is a pillar of the modern world.
The hair care industry is a major employer of plastic, with the average UK household going through 216 hair-related bottles each year. As a result, it is also is a heavy contributor to the approximately 381 million tonnes of plastic waste the world produces annually – a number set to double by 2034.
At La Riche, we are highly conscious of the impact of plastic pollution, especially in relation to how it affects our oceans. Here, we want to emphasise why we need to reduce plastic pollution to protect our planet, and support efforts to clean the waste that currently burdens our great oceans.
The impact of plastic pollution on our oceans
Making up over 70% of the earth’s surface, our oceans are widely considered our planet’s life support. Not only does it act as the number one source of protein for over a billion people globally – it also actively regulates our climate and absorbs much of the CO2 produced every day.
Simply put, a world without our oceans is no world at all. But sadly, pollution is placing a massive strain on these vast bodies of water, gradually causing damage that will eventually become irreparable to their ecosystems and marine life.
While there are many materials that contribute to this pollution – oil spills, mercury, pesticides – plastic is the primary culprit, accounting for around 80% of all marine pollution. Here are a few stats for you to chew over:
There are over 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in our ocean, weighing up to a combined 269,000 tonnes
There are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean – 88% of the sea's surface is polluted by plastic waste
Over a million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from plastic pollution every year
Approximately 14 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year
Every day around 8 million pieces of plastic make it into our oceans
These shocking statistics show just how massive the plastic pollution problem facing our oceans is. Places like the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch cover 1.6 million km2 of debris – that’s larger than the state of Texas. And microplastics and microfibres have been identified in all parts of the ocean, even in the depths of the Mariana Trench, 11km below sea level.
But while these numbers are undoubtedly startling, what effect does this pollution actually have? Well, the ramifications are just as staggering:
Suffering of marine species
The most obvious damage being caused by plastic pollution is to marine life. From being caught in plastic containers and suffering lacerations, to ingesting too much plastic that they mistake for prey, millions of ocean-based animals suffer every year due to plastic pollution. In fact, we are now at a point where 100% of baby sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs.
With numerous species under threat due to pollution, this could have massive ramifications on the food chain, and reduce the supply of fish many people rely on day-to-day. Plus, floating plastics can also transport invasive marine species to other parts of the ocean, where they disrupt the delicate ecosystems already in place.
As well as directly targeting the health and wellbeing of marine species and seabirds, plastic pollution can also dismantle the habitats of these creatures. This either forces them to move into new settings, which again disturbs the natural ecosystems and food chains, or puts these creatures’ lives in danger.
Affecting people’s health
Microplastics have been found in tap water, beer, salt – anything we gather from our oceans. Although more research needs to be conducted into the long-term ramifications of this, it is generally accepted that regularly consuming toxic microplastics is not beneficial to our health.
Indeed, several chemicals used to produce plastic materials are carcinogenic (meaning they can directly cause cancer) and interfere with our endocrine systems that release our bodies’ hormones. This can therefore lead to developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune disorders in humans and wildlife.
Contributing to climate change
Our oceans are one of our biggest support networks against climate change, providing our largest carbon sink. But the presence of plastics is changing this. Sunlight and heat on these plastics floating on the water’s surface cause these to release greenhouse gases, which will only happen more frequently as the planet continues to heat up.
Furthermore, a crucial species that is affected by ingesting microplastics are plankton. Plankton play a key role in taking carbon dioxide from the water’s surface down into deep ocean sinks. If plankton populations are hurt by plastic pollution, this could lead to more carbon dioxide staying on the water’s surface and entering the atmosphere.
What can we do to reduce plastic pollution?
The need to tackle the rise of plastic pollution grows with every passing day – especially as plastic production is expected to double in the next 20 years, and quadruple by 2050 according to the World Economic Forum.
So, what can and should we be doing right now to curb this dangerous trend? Well, recycling and reusing plastic is an important step. Did you know that 50% of the plastic produced globally is single-use only, and less than 10% of all plastics created have been recycled.
As an organisation at the forefront of the hair colour market, we recognise how crucial it is that we are part of a recycling revolution, especially with the amount of plastic the hair care industry as a whole utilises every year.
For this reason, our newly created colour tubs are made from recycled plastics. We are taking this approach so that these plastics can be reused and reformed for others in future, and never needs to find its way into the ocean or into landfills. We hope that others in our industry are taking similar strides to cut down their annual plastic waste.
There are other steps that we, you and others across the globe can do to help prevent plastic pollution, such as:
Using reusable water bottles, rather than buying and disposing of plastic water bottles every day
Becoming less dependant on one-use plastics, such as shopping bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws and coffee-cup lids
Buying certain foods, like nuts and grains, in bulk, rather than frequently in small plastic containers
Using compostable tableware, napkins, and other products where feasible
Limiting how often we wash our synthetic clothing to minimise the spread of microfibres
Support the amazing work at #TeamSeas
While prevention is important, it is also crucial that we work to rid the oceans of the plastic that continues to plague it right now. This is why we are proud to support initiatives like the brilliant #TeamSeas.
This campaign was launched in 2021 by popular YouTube personality MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson), Mark Rober and Matt Fitzgerald, with the goal of raising $30 million to remove 30 million pounds of plastic from our oceans.
Working with experts at Ocean Conservancy’s Global Ghost Gear Initiative®, as of February 2022 #TeamSeas smashed and surpassed their goal, having removed nearly 31 million pounds of plastic waste, to be recycled where possible, or disposed of in a safe, sustainable way.
With the reduction of plastic pollution a core concern for our whole team at La Riche, we are delighted to donate towards and support the incredible work of #TeamSeas, and hope that the initiative continues to go from strength to strength.