Pollution research

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, chemical leaks, sewage overspills, plastics, fly tipping, landfill, noise, light - pollution comes in many forms. 

We investigate the facts.

Greenhouse gases

The pollution type most on our minds at the moment is that causing Climate Change.  For any sceptics out there - this is happening and it is caused by human activity.  Scientists who believe this outnumber those who don't by about 40 to 1 and they have convinced the vast majority of World Leaders of this too.  Donald Trump is a sceptic and lets everyone know every time there is any snow anywhere - this is called weather and is not proof of there being no climate change.

We are releasing unprecedented quantities of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere and the greenhouse properties of these gases are leading to changes in the climate including more extreme weather and higher average temperatutes.

So, how much carbon dioxide and methane is too much and what can we do about it?


The other pollution in the news at the moment (but far from the only other pollution problem!) is plastics. Again derived from fossil fuels (the primary polluter with respect to greenhouse gases).

Plastics have made our lives immeasurably better - being used in a vast array of products we all use every day (I'm typing on a plastic product right now!).  However, what we do with our unwanted plastic is a major problem.  We need to work out how to recycle it and where possible reduce it's use.  The best place to start is to look at cutting back on the use of single use plastics, as, by definition, these are used once and then thrown away - and take hundreds or thousands of years to break down. 

However!  As with many things in life it is not that simple, sometimes the cure is worse than the illness.  For example, if we cut back on plastic in packaging we have to replace it with something.  Some of these replacements are much heavier and require more CO2 to produce them - so our plastic pollution would go down, whilst are CO2 emissions would go up!

The general message, however, is that we need to cut plastic waste.  Here are a few facts and figures.

In the 1950s about 600 grams of plastic were produced per person.  Now this figure is more like 45kg and still rising.  We have to both produce less and dispose of what we make better.  In our oceans, according to there are estimated to be (wait for it....) 5,250,000,000,000 bits of plastic debris, which is killing literally thousands of mammals and other animals a year.  To put that in context that is about 750 pieces for each and every human on the planet.

Single use plastic bags and straws have all be cut right back on - with viable alternatives in canvas bags or "bags for life", which whilst still plastic are at least used many times.  Many straws used in pubs and restaurants are now paper.

Single use plastic bottles are now a major focus, although a viable alternative is harder to find.  Some towns and cities are offering water by tap in public places, which people fill up their re-usable bottles at, but a replacement is still a way off.  Recycling bottles is the key - so they are re-used, rather than going to landfill is the best solution we have at the moment.

There is one company (Cove) in the US that is selling bottles of water that biodegrade after the expiry date - they say you can put them in the compost and they'll break down in time (although they are not specific about how long.  At $2 they are not excessively expensive either.  However, you'd have to go a long way to beat a re-usable bottle you carry round with you.  

If you do this you might like to use www.findtap.com using their site you can find places you can refill your bottle negating the use for plastic ones. refill.org.uk does something similar as well - both great ideas.


Here are a few scary facts for you to consider on UK waste.

12 Billion pieces of junk mail are posted every year to UK households

660 million batteries are sold each year.  Most go to landfill, despite recycling schemes in excess of 50% go to landfill.  .

The UK is likely to miss the 50% recycling target the government set by 2020.  In 2018 it was 44%, not helped by council budgets for recycling shrinking.

The average UK household throws away about £50 of food every month.

So - there's clearly a problem - the question is what to do about it?

Composting of materials, use rechargeable batteries, make sure you recycle properly and don't buy too much food.

These are a few examples - on their own they'll make tiny differences.  If we all do them collectively, suddenly the impact on the planet is hugely reduced (and we save some money too).

Images kindly provided by William Warby and Chris Lim under wikimedia commons. Files licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-share alike 2.0 Generic Licence