Pollution is ironically increasing, despite the world lockdown.

Anna Alford: Arts Columnist

COVID-19 has left our society and socioeconomic systems in tatters, which means I’m sure you are delighted to hear that it is also playing a big role in putting our climate in further peril (2020 really has earned its badge for the ‘Worst Year Ever’).

Travel bans and lockdowns may have temporarily reduced our carbon footprints, but the pandemic has majorly harmed out environment in another way: by re-normalizing the need for single-use plastics.

Our oceans have turned into a global garbage can, with an astounding 8 million metric tons of plastic waste ending up in our waters every single year. Disposable masks and gloves are washing up on our shores like seaweed, and bottles of hand sanitizer have been found floating in the waves of the Mediterranean.

A year ago, we were pursuing a war against plastics. There was a worldwide call for the ban of single-use plastics, with an increasingly worrying number of microplastics making their way into our waters, marine life, and even us humans.

Fast-forward to today and personal protective equipment made from plastic is essential for keeping people alive. The erratic nature of the virus means that wanting to be sustainable can now come with a serving of serious health concerns. The exponential growth of plastic consumption is terrifying, but it is impossible to compare this to the value of life. But do we dismiss what the future of our climate could look like because of this?

Although big corporations are mainly at fault for it getting to this level in the first place, there are many things individuals can do in the meantime to help save our seas.

How to start using less plastic

No one is expecting you to purge all plastic overnight, but there are a few small steps (that won’t cost you an arm and a leg) you can take to help prevent further tainting of our oceans and ecosystems. Reusable shopping bags are a good place to start and won’t have you awkwardly reaching around your pockets for a 5p every time you’re at the checkouts. If you’re prone to forgetting them, keep them by your front door; if space is an issue, carry small ones attached to your keyring. Tote bags come in an endless number of fashionable designs, allowing you to mix sustainability with style. On the topic of style, buy secondhand! The satisfaction felt when you find an absolute gem in a charity shop is unparallel, and you are giving to a good cause at the same time – score!

MACKAYAN: the problem with plastic

The exponential growth of plastic consumption is terrifying, but it is impossible to compare this to the value of life.

Unable to function without your morning caffeine fix? Surrender plastic cups and straws by carrying your own travel cup for on-the-go hot drinks. Bonus points if they are made from sustainable materials like glass or bamboo. Remember to keep yourself hydrated, as well as caffeinated, by bringing along a reusable water bottle too. Bottled water requires immense resources all along the production line, from extracting it to getting it onto the supermarket shelves.

Another supermarket faux pas is plastic-wrapped fruit and veg. This use of plastic is often unnecessary, and produce sold in this way is often more expensive. Avoid the supermarket altogether if you can, and buy from your local greengrocers. If you’re worried about germs, bring your own box or bags to carry your veggies in.

For when you can’t be bothered to go to the shop, it can be all too easy to succumb to the odd take away, but these meals frequently come with plenty of needless plastic containers, cutlery and the bag to transport it in. Save the planet and your pennies and make a ‘fakeaway’ at home instead.

Reducing your plastic use in your day-to-day life isn’t overly demanding with a little bit of ingenuity. For times when you can’t avoid their use, remember to recycle! Or even repurpose them to keep them out of landfill – grow plants in old yoghurt pots, or use old ice-cream containers to store pens, pencils and more. Ice-cream pots, and the world, are your oyster.