Research by North West rivers and water environment project Natural Course has revealed that while almost two thirds (65%) of people in the North West think that the majority of plastic in the ocean comes from litter, only 13% say they would always pick up rubbish in the street.
The research revealed a stark littering problem in the area – more than three quarters (76%) of people in the North West have seen empty food containers and plastic bags littered by the side of the road. It also showed that while efforts were being made by some, more than a third (42%) of people in the North West rarely or never pick-up other people’s rubbish on their walk to work. Less than half (48%) of people in the North West would take part in a litter pick of their local area. However, nearly three quarters (73%) would pick-up litter outside their home.
The new research was conducted by Opinion Matters and commissioned by Natural Course specifically in the region to highlight the impact plastic pollution in the North West is having on marine life.
Each year, an estimated 14 million pieces of plastic rubbish end up in and around our canals and rivers, with around 500,000 pieces flowing out into our oceans (3). Campaigners are warning that if nothing is done by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans, and is calling on people in the North West to ‘plug their plastic use’ and help clean-up the Irish Sea.
Joining the campaign is Hayley Tamaddon, who will be performing in the upcoming UK tour of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
The North West based actress commented: “Single-use plastics are on their way out, but there is a long way to go before they are gone completely. It’s shocking to think we are on track to have more plastic in the sea than fish. It’s a future that lots of young people are desperate to avoid and as a mum to a three-year-old, it’s particularly important to me.”
“It is up to us to learn how to deal with single-use plastics properly and help keep our region clear of litter, through re-using or recycling, or avoiding them altogether if we can. It’s time to tackle this together and plug our plastic use once and for all.”
More than a quarter (26%) of people in the North West surveyed thought fishing gear was to blame for the majority of ocean plastic. Research conducted by YouGov in 2021 also showed that less than half of people in the North West (43%) believed that plastic litter dropped inland ends up in the sea (4). However, it is estimated that 80% of the plastic in the ocean comes from inland sources via rivers and coastlines thanks to things like littering or overflowing bins.
Craig Higson, Natural Course Programme Manager said; “A little plastic can go an incredibly long way. Every time someone buys a bottle of water or uses a plastic food container for example, there is a possibility that the item they used for a matter of minutes will make its way to the Irish Sea, harming marine life for hundreds of years and even ending up back in the food chain”
“The best way to help tackle the problem is to avoid single-use plastic wherever possible, but if you have to use it, always re-use or recycle.”
Examining local plastic pollution along the Fylde Coast, final-year University of Lancashire student Athanasios Athanasiou found in 2 of the 3 Blackpool locations he sampled, litter was the source of plastic pollution (5).
Athanasios commented: “There is a strong connection between the litter produced in-land and the plastic pollution we are now becoming accustomed to hearing about in our oceans.”
“Our day-to-day behaviours in and around our own homes can directly impact beautiful marine wildlife and ecosystems both hundreds of miles away and on our own doorstep. My research has uncovered the effect the current littering issue here in the North West has on our coasts, but the good news is that small, everyday changes and a concerted community effort can have a substantial, positive impact over time.”
Hayley knows how important it is to create a discussion about the environment and what can be done to help our planet. Hayley has offered her advice on tackling the North West’s plastics problem to help residents ‘plug their plastic use’:
- Pick-up litter, once a day. Littering is more than just something unpleasant to look at it – it can cause problems for decades when it’s inevitably carried out to sea. Whether you’re on your way to school or work, or simply out and about, just picking up one piece of litter and responsibly disposing of it could make a huge difference to the health of our oceans.
- Use your reusable bottle. Every day in the UK, 15 million single-use plastic bottles are used (6). Once you’ve bought a reusable bottle, and there’s plenty to choose from, don’t stick it in the back of the cupboard. Have it somewhere in your eyeline so you remember to take it with you when heading out the door.
- Work your bathroom bins. It’s easier to recycle kitchen plastic with your recycling bins close-by, and overlook the shampoo and body wash bottles and everything else that comes out of your bathroom. Buy a little recycling bin just for those bathroom plastics to help easily sort your recycling at home.
- Refilling is a no brainer. There are now so many ways to refill your supplies, from handwash to detergent, which can hugely cut-back on single-use plastic. More and more people than ever are getting in on the act because not only is it better for the environment, it usually saves money too. Across the North West there are many wonderful local refill shops such as Gatley Refillery and Plentiful Wholefoods in Manchester or Purple Carrot and Windmill Wholefoods in Liverpool. But the big brands are also catching up, and there’s now refillable options on the supermarket shelf too.
- Takeaway with care. It’s tricky to cut back on single-use plastics when you’re craving a takeaway. For me, it’s about getting to know my favourite takeaways and being as responsible as possible. I’ll order from restaurants that use containers I can either reuse around the house or recycle. If a takeaway I love is still using unrecyclable polystyrene, I probably wouldn’t use them in the future, but I’d always let them know why.