Ullswater, jewel of the Lake District
It looks pristine doesn’t it? But what really lies beneath…?
Disturbing new research findings from Bangor University#1 highlight concerns over the high levels of microplastics identified in the lake.
How does plastic get into Ullswater?
Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic debris including microbeads, microfibres and plastic fragments.
It’s already known that they enter our river and lake systems from multiple sources including industrial effluent, storm water drains and domestic wastewater.
Around 90 per cent of microplastic contamination in the oceans is thought to originate from land. Research also shows that flood events can quickly transfer large quantities of microplastics from urban river to the oceans. So although Ullswater is landlocked, what happens here in the Lakes has a direct connection to the Solway Firth and the oceans beyond.
What can Ullswater businesses do about plastics – how can we protect our beautiful lake…?
While trying to reduce dependence on single-use plastic can seem daunting, there are an increasing number of ways to avoid packaging, or to use much more sustainable non-plastic materials.
Over the past couple of years PACT has been working hard on a range of initiatives and responses to help tackle the plastics problem. We’re now starting a campaign to reduce plastic waste across the Ullswater valley, and are very keen to collaborate with businesses and organisations all around the lake.
Encouraging our visitors to think about packaging, recycling and pollution is all part of responsible tourism. Displaying environmental messages about the importance of avoiding litter and plastic pollution is a great way to show Ullswater’s green credentials, and is a direct fit with all the publicity we give to the fantastic scenery and activities on offer to those on holiday.
What are you already doing to reduce single-use plastic…?
We welcome your ideas! We’re aware many people may already be working hard on this issue, so if you’re an Ullswater hotel, guesthouse, campsite or shop which has already taken steps to move away from plastic then we’d love to hear from you!
We’re very keen to publicise good things already going on, and generally share ideas on best practice to help protect our environment.
What’s the big problem with plastic?
Over the past century we’ve all become surrounded by plastic. It’s an incredibly versatile and durable material, now used in everything from clothing to crisp packets, and buckets to bottles.
However the problem with plastic is that it’s mostly not biodegradable. So unlike paper or food it doesn’t rot, but instead it can hang around in our environment for hundreds of years.
Many million tonnes of single-use plastic are produced every year. This all takes valuable energy and materials to produce and distribute, yet much of it is still not reused or recycled, and in fact a lot of it is simply unnecessary in the first place.
The BBC’s Blue Planet 2 series sparked a national debate about how we can greatly reduce our dependence on plastic. The series showed the massive damage being done to our oceans and marine life. Systems are interconnected, so what ends up in our watercourses and lakes here in Cumbria can rapidly find its way to the ocean.
Plastic waste never simply disappears, but it can break down into smaller microplastics which represent an even greater danger to our environment and wildlife. Sadly it’s becoming increasingly clear that plastics have now entered many aspects of the human food chain, yet the long-term impacts on our health are still not understood.
At an immediate level discarded plastic is also very unsightly, despoiling the very Lakeland scenery which visitors come to enjoy, and which is our unique asset at the heart of the tourism economy.
An estimated 19 million visitors annually are drawn to the Lake District National Park’s iconic natural scenery, making it the most popular National Park in Britain.
The National Park is at the very centre of Cumbria’s billion-pound tourism industry, supporting thousands of jobs.
The Lake District has also recently been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
The Ullswater valley is one of the most popular parts of our national park. The valley has a comparatively small permanent population, centred around settlements at Pooley Bridge, Glenridding and Patterdale.
However numbers are swelled exponentially by the influx of visitors; at any time there can be many thousands staying at hotels, guest houses, holiday rentals and campsites, in addition to the millions of day visitors who flock here throughout the year.