Seadog Blog

My Family and the Galapagos: Tam on Single Use Plastic

Posted in Broadcast


Tam Halls reflects on her time in the Galapagos Islands, and considers what she and the whole Halls family (and you!) can do to implement what they learned on the islands and reduce their plastic use back home in Devon.

I stepped off the boat and onto what appeared to be pristine white sand, dotted with minute shells hardly visible to the human eye. Sea lions sun bathed on the edge of the rolling surf whilst pelicans deftly skimmed the seas surface from one end of the bay to the other. The shallows were crystal clear and glimmered in the scorching sun. This was paradise.

Myself and JP, my National Park scientist and guide, were on a plastics research trip – this meant landing at different sides of the island of San Cristobal to transect areas of beach. This particular beach looked totally untouched by human hand. In fact, it is rarely accessed by people and is totally protected by the National Park organisation. I was incredibly fortunate to be allowed on it.

We spent time transecting an area of around 30 metres in length, using a grid to count any plastic litter of waste we could see within 5 centimetre squares. There was barely anything visible – the beach was 99% clean. However… our next stop on the eastward side of the island was a different matter. I had never seen anything like it, on any stretch of coastline anywhere in the world. It was devastating.

Not only did the beach look like a coral graveyard due to El Nino, but the beach was engulfed with waste, plastic litter and rubbish from boats. Our transect research gave a startling and contrasting result. In practically all the squares I inspected I saw at least one piece of plastic – be it a minuscule piece to chunks of cars, plastic bottles, parts of toys, fishing nets and clothing. Everything and anything to do with human existence could have been found there – toothbrushes, cups, plastic cutlery, plastic containers, sunglasses, shoes, bottle tops, bags, the list goes on and on and on. And now it has to stop.

Plastics and micro-plastics are fortunately big news at the moment and there’s so much fantastic advice already out there. But we can all do a few very simple things to make a massive difference to plastic pollution, to ensure that we are a generation who tried to reverse our reliance on single-use plastic and help as much as possible to clear up the mess we’ve already made.

Small changes, big difference:

  • If you visit a beach do a two-minute beach clean – #2minutebeachclean
  • Buy reusable shopping bags and keep them in your car, or opt for cardboard boxes to take home your shopping in
  • Buy and use a reusable water bottle and takeaway mug
  • Say no to straws – buy some paper straws or a reusable metal straw if you’d like
  • Buy food without plastic packaging. If you head to your nearest farm shop, market or health food shop this can be achievable!
  • Try and use Tupperware to store food instead of plastic bags or cellophane
  • Use Bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste in jars
  • Get a delivery of milk and orange juice in glass bottles
  • Experimenting with making homemade hummus and yogurt
  • Use shampoo bars and soap bars instead of liquid soap in bottles
  • Use safety razors instead of disposables

It’s not hard, it just means changing our habits and setting a new routine. It is all achievable but we all need to take responsibility for making these changes. We must continue to recycle what we can but we can no longer rely on single-use plastic items, these are the items that cause the most distressing damage to our marine life and the most harm to our beautiful natural world.

Further resources:

The MCS Plastic Challenge
Book: How to Live Plastic Free
Beach Watch: Join a beach clean or organise your own
Surfers Against Sewage: Join a Beach Clean
GCT Marine Plastics Programme

I’m extremely grateful to every single person who is saying no to plastics and all those that are working towards significantly reducing our use of it – there can be a positive end to this story but we all need to be part of it.