Aberdeen, Scotland "Fantastic it's not Plastic" Campaign

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Aberdeen, United Kingdom

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Type: Program

Status: Ongoing

Source File: http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/Sustainability/sl_sus/sus_plasticcampaign.asp

Description:

The re-launch of the Council’s ‘Fantastic it’s not Plastic’ Campaign took place on 6 May 2008 in association the Local Authorities International Environmental Organisation (KIMO).

The event involved Aberdeen EcoCity Officers handing out free reuseable cotton bags in return for 5 plastic carriers bags. In total around 1,775 plastic bags were gathered, these were recycled to make new products. Councillor Ron Clark launched the initiative which also featured displays and information on the environmental damage caused by litter from plastic bags and packaging.

Further 'Fantastic it's not Plastic' events in June collected around 2,300 plastic bags for recycling. This makes a total of 4,075 plastic bags collected and recycled since the initiative was relaunched in May 2008.

There will be more bag exchange initiatives later in the year, please watch the website for details.

Competition
A new competition was launched to run alongside the 'Fantastic it's not Plastic' events in June. This invited local participants to customise their new cloth bag, by drawing, painting, sewing or glueing a design with an environmental theme. The closing date for entries was 11 July 2008. A prize fund of £100 will be awarded to the best entry donated by local company EnviroCentre.

Entries will be collated and judged in early August and the prize awarded at a ceremony in the end of August.

Background
Plastic bags and packaging are lightweight in nature and readily carried by the wind. Here in the North East of Scotland we feel the impact of this wind born litter menace creating an unsightly addition to city trees, bushes and grass verges. Sadly, these plastic hazards do not stay on land but get swept out to sea to have a detrimental effect on our beautiful coastlines and waters.

The City Council has been campaigning to reduce the environmental damage caused by plastic bags and since 2003. The Fantastic it’s not Plastic initiative has lobbied at local and national level for a reduction in plastics to protect the environment and reduce the resulting litter problem in the City.

While the average plastic bag may seem pretty inoffensive they can take up to 1,000 years to break down. Around 13 billion plastic bags are issued each year and with the large majority of us still packing our shopping into free carrier bags something needs to be done.

The Government is working with retailers to reduce the impact of single use carrier bags by 25% by the end of 2008. This is the equivalent of taking a staggering 18,000 cars off the road. Local retailers are being very responsive putting into action a raft of measures including:

  • producing "bags-for-life" for their customers
  • ensuring plastic bags used are biodegradeable
  • charging an environmental levy on their bags
  • operating plastic bag recycling schemes.

Plastic bag measures do work, since the Irish Government introduced a plastic bag tax in 2002, plastic bag use has been reduced by 90%.

Impact of Plastic Litter
Litter from plastic bags, bottles and packaging is –

  • Unsightly and has a negative impact on our natural environment.
  • Costly and time consuming to clear away and extract from local foliage
  • Plastics tendency to shred increases its potential to litter
  • The plastic problem is an enduring one, with bags taking up to 1,000 years to break down
  • Plastic bag litter can block drains and cause flooding. This was one of the main reasons plastic bags were banned in Bangladesh as plastic bag litter was one of the main culprits for the 1988/ 1998 floods.
  • Plastic bag litter can have potentially fatal consequences for animals and birds if they become trapped by the bags or swallow the plastic.

Plastics at Sea
Plastics are the most common man-made item spotted at sea and many surveys report that plastics make up the majority of the debris found on our beaches. This litter creates problems for marine birds, mammals and fishermen especially since plastics at sea break down at a much slower rate than plastic weathered on land.

  • Around the world a staggering one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year after ingesting or becoming entangled in litter.
  • Around 98% of the fulmars in the North Sea have plastic in their stomachs.
  • Plastic litter at sea can cause damage to boat engines and propellers creating potentially hazardous situations.
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