Nene is a pollution ‘super highway’

Speaker's Corner columnists -  Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
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Roger Proudfoot - chair, Peterborough Green Party:

The focus of this year’s World Ocean Day is the scourge of plastic entering our oceans.

Plastic is killing marine wildlife and creating untold consequences for our health as microplastics enter our food chain.

Peterborough is miles from the sea, so we can’t be held responsible for plastic getting into the ocean, can we?

It may come as a shock, but Peterborough’s own Nene River is acting as a plastic pollution super highway to the North Sea and the oceans beyond.

Earlier this year, litter pickers operating just east of the city at Fitzwilliam Bridge collected 26 bags of rubbish on a 100m stretch of the river bank. The rubbish consisted mostly of ‘single use’ plastic bottles, food packaging and drinks cans all of which could be carried out to sea.

More unpleasant facts: 90 per cent of North Sea fulmar (a seabird) have plastic in their stomachs. For every 100g of supermarket-bought mussels eaten we ingest 70 pieces of plastic. A contributory factor is the plastic microfibres that leach out of our clothing during every wash.

Our sewer systems are unable to screen the fibres out. If those microfibres are then consumed by fish, and we eat those fish, what are the chances that we’re eating one another’s underwear?!

We are all very, very careless with plastic litter. If we are going to save our oceans and safeguard the health of future generations this level of disregard for the impact of our littering and throw-away lifestyles cannot continue.

Our government is finally waking up to the problem after years of pressure from non-government organisations like Keep Britain Tidy and the Marine Conservation Society. Blue Planet II captured the public imagination and led to widespread demands for action.

This resulted in a delay in the publication of the 25-year environment plan by the government to allow some belated ‘plastic action’ text to be included.

We must make single use plastic a thing of the past, especially as China is refusing to import our plastic waste which now rapidly accumulates at council depots around the country.

New legislation should lead businesses to change their packaging and our habits as consumers.

At a local level, we can all do more to make a difference: refuse single use plastic wherever possible; use cotton bags for our shopping; invest in a refillable mug (many coffee outlets will now fill your own mug); refuse plastic straws.

It’s no longer Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; the new mantra is Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle until such time the government makes the changes necessary to rid our society of this menace of single use plastics.

In Peterborough, we can set an example across council services and eliminate our own use of plastics wherever possible.

Please help us tackle this problem and make a pledge to rid yourself of single use plastic.

If you’d like to help us pickup plastic in your local area check out Peterborough Litter Pickers on Facebook.