The number of plastic bags found in the seas around Britain has significantly dropped since 2010 as European governments crack down on their use, scientists in Britain and the Netherlands said on Thursday.
In a study that spanned 25 years, the trawls by fishermen that catch at least one plastic bag in the greater North Sea, off Britain’s east coast, went down from 40 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2018. Several European countries, including Ireland, Denmark, France and Britain, have introduced plastic bag levies since 2003 which resulted to reduction in plastic use.
“If we think a bit more wisely about plastic, especially the single use items we use in our daily life, we can make big changes,” said the Thomas Maes, co-author of the study, and marine scientist at Britain’s governmental Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.
Scientists have urged tougher restrictions on plastic waste. In December, almost 200 nations agreed to limit plastic pollution of the oceans, warning it could outweigh fish by 2030.
United Nations figures show 8 million tonnes of plastic – bottles, packaging and other waste – enter the ocean each year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain.
Plastics have been shown to kill dolphins, choke turtles and degrade precious marine habitats. The plastics which have been in the seas for a while may sink into the sea floor, or be torn up and gradually turned into microplastics. They can take hundreds of years to degrade.
“Cleaning up the oceans is a very complex issue but the crucial thing is to stop more plastic waste entering the seas, and then think about cleaning it up,” Maes said. “We can’t be mopping the floor while the tap is still open,” he said.
Several European countries have introduced deposit return schemes for single use bottles in a bid to increase recycling. Britain said it plans to follow later this year.