THE British Plastics Federation (BPF) has said it is “disappointed” that images of a dead baby pilot whale in a recent episode of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II were linked to plastics with “absolutely no supporting evidence”.
The organisation said it wishes to make it clear that plastics themselves are not a major source of toxins, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) or heavy metals found in oceans, due to the fact they are “inherently inert”. The BPF added that plastics are completely safe when in contact with food or drink, for example, and have to meet very strict requirements set in food contact legislation.
The BPF said, “The harmful chemicals that are unfortunately present in the sea are not there because of plastics. They are often present due to historical practices, with many of these practices and chemicals now banned under UN and EU regulations. Due to their chemical nature, many of these banned chemicals persist in the natural environment for a very long time. Some chemicals that were banned almost 40 years ago are still found today.
“We applaud Malcolm Hudson, associate professor in environmental sciences at Southampton University, for publicly questioning the way the whale’s death was presented by the programme. The executive producer of the programme, James Honeyborne, has recently stated in the press that no autopsy was done on the baby whale. To heavily insinuate it was killed by plastics is wrong.
“Plastics are a valuable and highly recyclable resource that should stay productive within the circular economy. They offer unique, functional benefits and reduce food waste, CO2 emissions and protect products in ways no other material can. In reality, the UK is responsible for only 0.2% of marine litter – but we would like to see that figure reduced to zero. However, in raising awareness of global environmental issues, falsely linking toxins in the ocean with plastics and the death of a baby whale is poor film-making and alarmist. Plastics are completely safe: they simply need to be disposed of responsibly so that they do not enter the marine environment.”
Barry Twigg, CEO of National Flexible, was also dismayed and has called for food companies, supermarkets and film manufacturers to speak up in defence of plastic in the face of such attacks. He said, “Where are the major food companies, supermarkets and film manufacturers when these debates are held? Regrettably they are neither seen nor heard. Eventually the whole of the packaging food industry will pay for this inertia, either in plastic taxes and/or restrictions on plastic use and when these things happen we will have brought it all on ourselves.”
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