Plastic pollution is choking our oceans and harming wildlife – and it’s time to make it a thing of the past. It’s fitting that one of our best known Welsh cultural institutions is helping lead the drive to phase out unnecessary single use plastic, and raise awareness of the problem.
As part of WWF’s Earth Hour in March this year, we introduced the #PromiseForThePlanet campaign. It meant making simple changes to your everyday life that will help protect our planet; from refusing plastic cutlery, to investing in a reusable cup or drink bottle, to becoming a flexitarian and eating less meat.
In Wales, organisations and businesses jumped on board too. Many decided to cut down their plastic pollution, which is a major threat to wildlife and our natural environment. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, responsible for Wales’ seven national museums, was one such organisation, and they’re already making good on their Promise to cut down on single-use plastic.
So how have they been getting on?
National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
National Waterfront Museum’s newly branded café, Y Cei, is spearheading Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ drive to remove all single-use plastic from its cafés.
Out have gone plastic straws, cake wrappings, plastic bottles and sauce sachets – in have come vegetable-based straws, paper sandwich wrap, compostable takeaway cups and lids, and recyclable glass and cans for drinks. Y Cei will also introduce its own branded reusable cups which can be refilled at the café for a discounted price.
Sathia Lackhmanan, catering manager at National Waterfront Museum, has even decided to stop selling crisps, as he hasn’t yet found a supplier which doesn’t use plastic. His next plan is to provide loose-leaf tea – cutting out the need for and waste of teabags. ‘As it is Wales’s Year of the Sea, and the café is right on the waterfront, reducing the waste that goes into the oceans is very important to us,’ Sathia says. ‘If we can make small changes right now, then in 100 years it will have a big impact – we need to do this for future generations.’
National Wool Museum, Carmarthenshire
Inspired by Earth Hour’s #PromiseForThePlanet and Wales’ Year of the Sea, 40 volunteers at National Wool Museum created a knitted sea grotto. In addition to the knitted creatures, they also installed information panels to inform visitors about the importance of recycling and reducing single-use plastic. A collection of marine invertebrate specimens is also on display, loaned from the Natural Sciences Department of the museum, to teach visitors which animals live in the sea around our coast.
The other half of the Museum’s Promise was to reduce general plastic use on-site. They did this by removing plastic straws and drinks in plastic bottles from the Y Gorlan café, and stopped providing felt pens for colouring-in activities.
In addition to the café and sea grotto, the Museum arranged a beach clean for the local school and a local artist to work with the children to create a comic strip about how plastics are created and how they end up in the sea.
A Sustainability Day is being held on Friday 13 July. It will feature an installation comprising plastic gathered during the beach clean, which will be on display in the grounds of the Museum throughout the summer to demonstrate the importance of a clean sea.
National Museum Youth Forum, Cardiff
With the support of museum management and staff, National Museum Cardiff’s Youth Forum have planned an event to honour the Year of the Sea. They have used plastic collected from Welsh beaches by Surfers Against Sewage to create temporary installations. These artworks will be on display in the ‘Life in the Sea’ galleries at National Museum Cardiff from 31 July to 5 August. The Youth Forum is also producing workshop packs and gallery displays to help the public understand the problem and how they can join the fight against single-use plastic.
The Youth Forum encountered many steep learning curves on this project. First of all, learning how to decontaminate the plastic debris; everything had to be frozen for at least two weeks before being deemed suitable for public display. They sorted through small mountains of plastic and dealt with surprises such as tampon inserters, fishing hooks and syringes. After sorting and cleaning the plastic they worked with museum visitors, youth groups and volunteers to create plastic sea creatures.
To view the plastic sea creature installations and learn how you can join the fight against plastic pollution, visit National Museum Cardiff from 31 July to 5 August. A selection of our WWF videos about plastic pollution will be shown too.
The Youth Forum hopes that bringing real plastic pollution into the Museum will make the issue more visible to the public and show them that change is both necessary and possible.
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ vision is: ‘inspiring people, changing lives’ – they’re certainly living their values by keeping their #PromisesForThePlanet! Their work is based on the principle that culture is created by people and communities – let’s hope Wales can create a culture in which unnecessary single-use plastic is a thing of the past.
By joining our fight against plastic pollution, you too can make a difference to Wales. Be the first to hear what you can do to help and to receive tips on how to reduce plasticwaste in your own life.