We work with the government, the public and local businesses to reduce plastics on Alderney - from single-use packaging to microbeads - and educate on the harm these plastics cause the environment.
The AWT has been working to help reduce waste on Alderney, in particular single-use plastics, resulting in the island being named the second plastic-free community in November 2018 by Surfers Against Sewage. This does not mean we have eliminated plastic on our island yet, just that as a community we have made significant steps to do so.
If your business is working to reduce plastics and you would like to be recognised as a 'Plastic Free Champion' for our community, please get in touch.
Plastic is an amazing material with lots of uses, however, many of the reasons it is so widely used are factors that contribute to it becoming a problem in the environment. For example, plastic never truly degrades making it durable and hard-wearing for manufacturers but it will break into smaller and smaller pieces if it gets into the environment. These small pieces are then easily swallowed by marine life and even attract other pollutants in the water such as PCBs. Fulmars, a species found on Alderney, have been shown to have on average 33 pieces of plastic in their stomachs.
Ultimately any plastic eaten lower down in the food chain also accumulates higher in the chain including in humans. Studies have shown that seafood eaters ingest thousands of tiny microplastics every year. If animals swallow plastic it can take up room in their stomach, leading to starvation as they cannot eat their natural food, or plastics may cause twists in their insides causing death.
This is in addition to the problem of wildlife getting caught in various types of litter that makes its way into their habitat. This again is a problem we see often in Alderney as Gannets regularly use fishing line and net to build their nest instead of the traditional seaweed. Chicks especially may become tangled and perish in this plastic waste. Since 2019 we have been following nests on Les Etacs to get a better idea of the number of gannets that perish from entanglement each year. In 2019 we found 21 of the birds we could monitor from land through the summer breeding season got caught in line and net and died.
The beginnings of a solution
Fortunately, there is something we can all do to stop the tide of plastic from reaching our oceans. By reducing the plastics we use in our everyday lives, and choosing a plastic-free alternative to the items we buy, we send a message to retailers and businesses. You can download a Surfers Against Sewage individual action plan here.
However, the lead in plastic reduction must come from the government and big businesses in order to make a greater difference. The AWT is part of the States of Alderney plastics action group, meeting regularly to discuss ways to reduce plastic on island and looking at new legislation to help tackle the problem. In March 2020 the States members voted to ban single-use plastic carrier bags on the island (from January 2021), a small but important first step in environmental legislation on Alderney.
While we can't beach clean our way out of the plastic pollution crisis, they do help stop the immediate danger to wildlife from litter. The AWT hold regular beach cleans throughout the year (in summer there are paid beach cleaners so you may not see us out as much then!), so keep an eye on our events page to find out when our next clean might take place. We also organise the annual Big Channel Islands Beach Clean in January as all the islands take part in a clean together to kick off the new year.
To help reduce single use plastic bottles we asked school children to help design a water refill sign for retailers happy to fill up your bottle from their tap. Morgan and Evelyn's designs were so impressive we couldn't choose so we combined the two and you will now see this displayed on many shops.
The AWT Microbead Challenge
Towards the end of 2017, we set a challenge to our local retailers to look at reviewing and reducing microbead products they sell on Alderney. Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic which are found in cosmetics and toiletries, such as facial scrubs and toothpastes. After use, the microbeads wash out to sea and are unfortunately eaten by zooplankton and fish.
Spectacularly, we found that nearly all cosmetic and toiletry products sold on Alderney by our local retailers are microbead free!
Retailers which took part in the challenge include: Eden Beauty, Lynn Roscow/Neal's Yard, The Farm Shop/Jeans Stores, Le Cocqs, Stop2Shop, Carol Walters/Forever Ltd and Boardman's Pharmacy and Perfumery.
We would like to thank all the retailers for taking part in this challenge and hope that Alderney remains microbead free now the UK has banned this plastic pollution!