Phelim Mac Cafferty: Our reliance on plastic is damaging the environment

Phelim Mac Cafferty is the Green candidate for Hove SUS-170405-101701001
Phelim Mac Cafferty is the Green candidate for Hove SUS-170405-101701001

From plastic bags, to takeaway boxes and plastic cups, a huge amount of plastic we consume is used just once before it is thrown away.

This extreme reliance on plastic is costing both us and the environment dearly.

A plastic straw used once can take up to 600 years to degrade. Figures show that more than a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute – a number almost too big to comprehend. Without urgent action we will end up drowning in plastic.

As a coastal city Brighton and Hove is at the frontline of the challenge to reduce plastic waste. Only 14 per cent of plastic packaging is ever recycled or re-used and Brighton and Hove, like many other councils, only has the facilities to recycle plastic bottles. The result is plastic ends up in our oceans – damaging our marine life but also working its way into our food supply. Traces of plastic are now found in almost a third of fish caught off the British coastline and studies show now also in our drinking water. If nothing changes, it’s predicted that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Plastics don’t just damage the environment: littering costs all of us billions a year. On just one weekend this summer, council staff estimated they cleared almost 45 tonnes of waste from the seafront.

The Greens want to see our council lead by example and take serious action on the use of plastic. We need to start by removing the use of single-use plastic items from Brighton and Hove City Council buildings. A public petition is also calling on the council to issue guidelines for local businesses, to help them transition from single-use plastics to sustainable alternatives.

I was pleased to join campaigners Surfers Against Sewage whose campaign to stop seafront bars providing plastic straws has found many supporters, such as the Tempest Inn. Just this week Wetherspoons, a chain with over 900 pubs in the UK, have pledged to switch to biodegradeable straws. With coordinated action from the public, the council and businesses, we can turn the tide on plastics.

To sign the petition visit:

Phelim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Greens on Brighton & Hove City Council.