Since plastic was introduced to the world around 100 years ago it has become part of our every day lives. Plastic has been regarded by millions of people across the globe as an absolutely fantastic product with trillions of individual uses.

Yet every piece of plastic that has ever been produced is still on the Earth's surface somewhere, excluding what has been incinerated.

We are very quickly starting to understand that plastic has become a very major global issue.

Nearly all plastics are made from fossil fuels, which is a non-renewable resource and non-biodegradable. These are the basic environmental considerations that need to be given when looking at the effects of the 9 billion tonnes of fantastic plastic produced.

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Following production, there are some plastics that could be considered acceptable. These could be the many durable, long term plastic products that we use daily, from our toilet seats to our mobile phones or our wheelie bins and that list goes on and on.

Although many of these plastic types are considered fantastic, we should take a moment to also consider how some of these more durable plastics can be a serious health issue.

Most plastics used in our households, that are scoured, scraped, stirred, chewed or heated in the microwave, let go minute particles of plastic and may be unknowingly digested. We cannot ignore what serious effects this may have on our health.

But the biggest, highlighted issue by far that we have recently been hearing is "single-use plastics". These are the unacceptable plastics of which there is a colossal variety. That is the food and drink containers, the plastic packaging on nearly every product that is purchased and the famous convenient plastic grocery bag.

There is also the millions and millions of metres of plastic wrapping on things like farmers' silage and hay products, wrapping buildings under construction, the many materials that are transported on pallets are wrapped in plastic, or the popular cling or Glad wrap, the list goes on and on.

So what is all the fuss on single-use plastics?

The simple answer is, there is so much of it being produced, it is overflowing into our environment, resulting in momentous devastation for the planet we depend upon.

Here are a few facts on plastic to consider.

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* Four trillion single-use grocery bags used worldwide per year.
* Two million bags produced every minute.
* 500,000 straws used daily.
* 500 billion plastic cups used every year.
* 269,000 tonnes of waste plastic in our oceans is from takeaway food orders.
* 335 million tonnes of plastic produced world wide in 2016 with about 50 per cent destined for single use.
* 480 billion plastic bottles sold in 2016 in the US.
* Eight million tonnes of plastic in our oceans annually.

At this present rate, there will be more plastic per tonne in the sea than fish by 2050. We are drowning our planet in plastic.

There are at present five islands of floating plastic debris in our oceans with the largest being the equivalent size of the state of Texas.

Apart from being just debris, these discarded single plastics are also a serious health issue when entered into environment and our oceans. Through sunlight and exposed to nature's forces, these break down into tiny micro plastics most of which are smaller than your little finger nail yet some barely noticeable to the naked eye. These are all over the planet and are washed into our lakes, our rivers and our oceans.

They end up in our drinking water supplies and are consumed by humans, animals and creatures alike.

Yes we can all say that plastic is fantastic and makes our daily lives easier. It has become habit and convenience, plus products are waterproof, air tight and hygienic.

The biggest issue and responsibility does rest with the manufacturer of the individual products who mostly leave the packaging and the used plastic items for the average consumer to grapple with.

So if we are conscientiously concerned about our health and the environment for our future generations, there are major changes required on how we can assist to deal with the fantastic plastic problem.

Unfortunately, for you and I as the average consumer, we are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, but we can make a difference, we are the consumer and most plastic are produced for our benefit. Here are some suggestions on what we can do.

Firstly, the five Rs could become our new habit: Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, Reduce, Remove.

Maybe just one step at a time as the more of us doing a small bit all adds to the big picture. The small steps can be such things as taking your own reusable coffee cups for takeaways or refusing the plastic bag the shop offers to give you.

Removing the plastic bottle or the plastic bag that's lying on the ground.

Wrapping your last night's leftovers with beeswax wrap instead of cling wrap or a plate over the container.

And of course the step many are already taking is to keep your own reusable bag in the car for every shopping requirements.

Think Global - Act Local


* Rod Heaps is a Hastings District councillor