Blog: Why going plastic-free should matter to us all



Alasdair Steele

By Alasdair Steele, head of Scotland Commercial at Knight Frank

 

When Blue Planet II was first broadcast in 2017, the programme sent a ripple across the world. It laid bare the ruinous effect plastics have on our environment – particularly our oceans. It was a difficult but important watch.

Our oceans are a special place that connect us with nature. As a keen surfer my world has always revolved around water – I’m happiest either in, under, or alongside it. I’ve also been actively involved in the fight to protect our oceans for many years through the environmental charity, Surfers Against Sewage. That’s why I’m particularly pleased that Knight Frank has decided to go single use plastic-free from April 2019.

The very thing that makes the material so useful is also its Achilles heel – plastic is virtually indestructible and, as the world has produced more and more of it, we have given little thought to the impact on the world and its ecosystems.

Despite growing awareness of the problem, analysis from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation suggested that plastics production has increased twentyfold since 1964, reaching 311 million tonnes in 2014. In fact, the same report estimated that production will almost quadruple by 2050 and plastics will outweigh the amount of fish in our oceans.

This is having, and will have, a terrible impact on the environment and wildlife – more than one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed every year because of plastic pollution. But it affects humans too: plastic microfibres are being found in drinking water and within fish in our food chain.

That’s why it should be obvious that plastic pollution has to matter to us all. We need to do something about the situation before it gets even worse.

It’s the old adage of ‘if you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem’ – even if that starts in a small way. The average adult in the UK uses 175 plastic water bottles per year. At Knight Frank we have approximately 2,000 staff in the UK - that means we can remove 350,000 plastic water bottles from the environment every year by swapping them for reusable alternatives.

More than that though, through the information that everyone working at the firm will receive, we want to become ambassadors for change in our communities, helping our families, friends, and even clients to see the importance of cutting out single-use plastics.

We’re reaching a tipping point. We need to change the way we see and use plastics and it’s incumbent on everyone to take responsibility for changing their habits. If we embrace it, we can all make a real difference – and I’m very proud that Knight Frank has taken a big step towards achieving that.