Here's one small thing you can do about plastic pollution

plastic bottles on beach
CC BY 2.0 Michael Coghlan

A campaign by the Marine Conservation Society wants you to report any #wildbottlesightings on social media.

A strange new creature has overtaken the shorelines and waterways of Great Britain. It’s round, hard-shelled, with a white head and cylindrical body. It measures about 8 inches long, and doesn’t have any tail or feet. Sometimes it trails papery wisps behind it. Occasionally its body color changes from pale and transparent to green or blue.

Have you seen one of these creatures? They’re less elusive than they once were. Their habitat must be spreading, for now they can be found almost anywhere. If you come across one, be sure to report it on social media as a #wildbottlesighting!

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) in the UK is asking people to photograph and tag any ‘wild bottles’ they come across outdoors. This is part of an effort to get local governments to implement Deposit Return Systems, so that recycling rates go up and fewer disposable plastic bottles are discarded in nature. MCS hopes that, by using the hashtag #wildbottlesighting and reporting as many sightings as possible, it will be easier to “paint a true picture of the UK’s littered bottles and cans.”

"Deposit Return Systems (DRS) already work well in Germany, the US and some Australian states, and there’s strong support for DRS in Scotland. Let’s make this happen all over the UK! Such a system can reduce littering, increase recycling, and change behaviour. Like the carrier bag charge, it’s a simple idea that can have an immediate effect."

Lots of people have reported sightings, with 265 in the Edinburgh region and 138 in London so far:

There’s something horribly incongruous about plastic trash on a beach, but, tragically, because discarded plastic bottles have become so common, we hardly notice them anymore. This campaign is a wakeup call to start noticing the pollution all around us. By flagging it and putting it in a public spotlight, hopefully municipal governments will be pressured into rethinking their disposal policies.

Public shaming, as controversial as it may be, is effective. I think I’ll be using this same tactic at my town’s once-beautiful beach on Lake Huron, where the garbage cans overflow, there are no recycling bins, and plastic straws litter the beach after every summer weekend.

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