Easter is traditionally a period of celebration, gratefulness, and remembrance. Even to those who are not Christian, the festival has become part of British culture to such an extent that it is rare to find any child who does not get at least one chocolate egg or go to at least one egg hunt. The popularity can even be seen in the USA, where chocolate bunnies replace chocolate eggs, and across other European countries, where boiled chicken eggs are dyed or drawn on. However, to much of the wildlife around cities, especially marine species, this supposedly joyful time turns into a plastic horror.  

Hannah Rhodes is an A-Level Geography student at Leventhorpe School. She has been studying the effects of plastic in the environment and how damaging it can be. She explains that “Plastic does not degrade fast [sic], when it does (which takes hundreds of years) micro plastics are produced which pollute the oceans and water.” Microplastics are small bits of plastic which although are not visible so can create the illusion of a healthy environment, are actually much harder to remove yet can cause much more harm by entering deeper into food chains and habitats. 

Even if not broken down into microplastics, plastic can still cause severe disruption in the food chain. Hannah comments that plastic “can act as a pollutant to the soil in landfill sites. It can also be very harmful to wildlife as they ingest it," with birds often mistaking plastic bags for fish or not noticing transparent plastic. 

During Easter, many eggs are bought and unwrapped. The wrapping is mainly foil, plastic, or plastic- coated cardboard, none of which can be easily recycled. Hannah agrees that “most of it is unnecessary. The foil for the egg is necessary to provide a sanitary egg, however lots of plastic on the inside can be prevented.” 

Finding a balance between upholding sanitary standards and reducing plastic waste is extremely hard. On one hand, of course no one would want to buy or eat chocolate that has been lying unprotected on aisles, but on the other hand, excessive packaging is not only a nuisance to the customer but a potential murder weapon to thousand or even millions of animals. The problem with most popular Easter eggs at the moment is that “Most (packaging) will end up in landfill, the carton of the egg can be recycled.” 

In landfills, plastic is forgotten and literally buried. But even though it is out of sight, it is not necessarily out of mind; it continues to degrade into microplastics and seep into the earth, then can get washed away in rainwater to streams, and eventually make its way into the sea, where it causes harm to marine wildlife. Even larger pieces of plastic packaging, such as the Easter egg containers, can be carried into neighbouring environments and streams by particularly strong gusts of wind. 

It is clear that using non-recyclable materials such as most plastics and therefore requiring landfills is not a sustainable nor effective option. We must act now to find alternative solutions and help save countless, innocent animal lives. Hannah suggests that we can do this “By swapping out plastic with a recyclable material like carton and minimising packaging as much as possible by making it smaller.” 

Although Easter has passed this year, please keep the polluting and deadly consequences of the much-loved festival in mind for next year and think about whether you really need to buy that much plastic.