Words by Madison Bowden Parry, Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales volunteer
Plastic is revolutionary. Being a durable, long-lasting and affordable material, plastic seems to have a never-ending application within our society. Due to its nature, it is not surprising that this material is so prevalent within our seas – and whenever we are finished with it, its strong lightweight and buoyant characteristics allow it to travel great distances, where ever it may wish to go. Currently, this rebellious material occupies every beach in the world, making up a staggering 60-80% of all marine debris studied. Marine plastics are not unheard of, and the increasing prevalence of plastic within the marine environment is a cause of great concern.
The ubiquitous nature of plastics within our seas has sparked enormous change amongst the minority, and there are now large communities all over the world, devoted to reducing their plastic use and consumption. In Wales, we are granted with a great diversity of marine life, of which is supported and protected tirelessly by, amongst others, wonderful and dedicated staff and volunteers of The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW). They work tremendously hard to keep our seas clean, from countless local beach cleans, ocean clean ups, informational articles and positive awareness outreach. In particular, a recent beach clean at Overton mere in Gower, staff and volunteers collected over 2000 pieces of plastics, both large and small. The collated data from 2.5 hours of beach cleaning revealed that the most abundant plastic collected was polystyrene.
Unfortunately, scientists estimate that 99% of seabirds globally will ingest plastic by 2050, which of course disrupts their normal feeding capabilities. One type of plastic that seems to go down well is the small, easily-digestible and easily mistaken for food types. These are either pre-production plastics called Nurdles, smaller than 5mm, that will eventually end up as a sturdy children’s toy or chair in your home, and the BAFF (biological aerated flooded filter) plastics, used within our wastewater treatment plants to filtrate our water. These plastics are designed small, light, and permanent, posing an invisible threat on our wildlife. Unarguably the facts and familiarity of plastic in our seas are distressing, and now, their prevalence is certainly not received and digested lightly. Change is happening and there is an ever-growing sense of community engagement and commonality for the health of our planet, and this positivity is certainly empowering.
Positive outreach is an area of which The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) incorporate into their commitment to the protection of our wonderful wildlife and community education, and this is something that anyone can contribute to.
The Living Seas Wales project compromises of a team of passionate ocean enthusiasts, researchers and likeminded individuals that bring the intricacies of the seas to you. In collaboration with colleagues in North Wales Wildlife Trust, WTSWW’s Living Seas team help develop and manage important Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s), provide vital information on sustainable fish consumption and are making waves within marine habitat management and conservation. The combination of all of our efforts can amount to large scale change, and by spreading the word, raising awareness and making easy but imperative swaps, we can minimise our plastic waste, be responsible for a cleaner environment and help our wildlife thrive.
If you are interested in giving back to our blue planet, then you are in the right place! WTSWW offer many opportunities where you can help out and do your bit. Volunteering with your local group, donating to projects and supporting the Trust via a personal membership, there is certainly something for everyone.
If you are interested in volunteering with a local group or want to know more about The Wildlife Trust’s marine based activities, visit the volunteering section on the website and visit the Living Seas website to find out how to get involved!
We can be the change for good, to protect our seas and act for a Wilder Future.
Go on, let’s do this together!