Approximately 12 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in our oceans every single year. Plastic residue continues to be found in fish, seabirds and other marine animals; and shockingly, there are now traces of it in creatures that live seven miles below the sea.
The Five Nations Care Forum has made a plea to all care providers, asking them to support their campaign and cut down usage of single-use plastic, and products that contain unsustainable palm oil.
Palm oil has hit the headlines over the last 12 months; most noticeably down to Iceland’s 2018 advert, who used a Greenpeace animation of an orangutan, to show the destruction palm oil growers are causing to rainforests.
Palm oil is the most commonly consumed vegetable oil on the planet, and is found in everything from chocolate and ice cream, to shampoo and detergent. Over half of consumable products in care homes are predicted to have palm oil in them.
When it comes to plastics, the statistics are shocking. Did you know there are 500 times more pieces of microplastic in our sea, than there are stars in the sky? It’s predicted that by 2050, the oceans will have more plastic than fish in them.
As Mario Kreft, Chair of Care Forum Wales stated: “plastic pollution is a problem we can no longer ignore. It is poisoning and injuring marine life, and disrupting human hormones. It is littering our beaches and landscapes, as well as clogging our waste streams and landfills. In short, it is now threatening the survival of our planet.”
With care homes procuring such huge numbers of products and resources that contain either palm oil, or have unnecessary amounts of plastic packaging; it’s time we took a stance and started to reduce our usage on both.
Small changes can have a big impact - and the investment of time and effort we put in now is invaluable; considering what is at stake.
If your care home is using paper plates, plastic cutlery, paper cups, straws, and disposable wipes, then it’s time to stop. Switch to non-disposable plates, cutlery, glassware and other utensils, which can be used time and again.
We’re not saying eliminate plastic completely. It can bring benefits, after all - namely, providing protection from contaminants, and increasing the shelf-life of food. However, there’s no doubt plastic is being overused - and the likes of fruit and vegetables really don’t need to be covered in layers of plastic.
Waste plastic has a value, but not when it’s dumped in the oceans. You should have an enforced recycling system in place, to ensure that your plastic is put to use.
Place recycling bins in obvious areas, and train staff in the importance of recycling, to get everyone motivated. If you operate several care homes, you could hold a competition to see who recycles the most plastic; handing out a prize to the winner.
Store recycling in your basement or other storage facility, until it’s picked up by the trash collectors - there really is no excuse not to be recycling.
Remember that it’s not just plastics than can be recycled. Other products include:
White office paper
Beverage containers (including glass bottles and aluminium cans)
Bottles, cans and jars
If you’re questioning the ways to reduce plastic use, then cutting back on it in your care homes is a great step forward; but bigger steps need to be taken to make a real difference.
Take a look at what is going on in your community - are there local clean-ups or campaigns that are taking place? If there isn’t one you could support, could you arrange one yourself?
By promoting the elimination of plastic and making it known to the wider community; you can help to encourage others living in your local area to cut back on plastic, and recycle more too.
We’re in the sector of caring, so it makes sense that we lead the way in reducing plastic use, in order to take care of our planet.
Changes can’t happen overnight, but small changes really can make a difference - providing everyone is onboard.
If all care homes in the UK could follow these three steps to eliminate plastic waste; then not only are we actively helping to cut usage, but we can also encourage other sectors to follow suit.