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According to a Scottish Government report last year, an estimated 300 million plastic straws, 276 million pieces of plastic cutlery, 50 million plastic plates and 66 million polystyrene food containers are used in Scotland every year. With a population of around 50,000, that means that here in Cumbernauld we are using three million straws a year, 2,760,000 pieces of plastic cutlery, 500,000 plastic plates and 660,000 polystyrene food containers. That’s a lot of take-aways!

Most people who live in Cumbernauld will know that sadly some of that plastic, along with plastic bottles, wrappers and bags, ends up thrown down around the town, in our parks and greenspaces, and into our burns and rivers. It looks ugly, and worst of all, it’s really bad for wildlife. And not just the wildlife that lives in Cumbernauld.

Some of that plastic gets into our waterways and ends up in the sea, where it’s a killer. Whales, dolphins and porpoises have been found dead with many kilos of plastic in their stomachs, slowly starved to death because they can’t digest proper food with a stomach full of rubbish. As the plastic is churned around in the ocean it breaks down into smaller pieces, which seabirds and fish also think is food. And young animals can become tangled in it, gradually choking as they grow and can’t remove a plastic noose from around their necks.

Here in Cumbernauld we are lucky to have some fantastic groups of people, such as Clean Up Cumbernauld and the Cumbernauld Living Landscape’s Nature Ninjas, who take a lot of time and effort to try to clear away the plastic litter. They do a fantastic job but they can never clear it all. And wouldn’t it be great if they didn’t have to spend all that time clearing up other people’s rubbish, and could spend it planting trees, or seeding wildflower meadows, or enjoying the beautiful greenspaces we have in our town!

If enough of us stop using single use plastics, go back to using things like reuseable cups, cutlery and bags, and ask businesses and politicians to find a better solution, we can make that happen. Remember – every time you use a reusable cup a dolphin smiles!

Plastic litter from inland can end up on our beaches and in our seas. Image c. George Stoyle/The Wildlife Trusts

Sue Walker