Letters Threat from environmental plastics

Doctors should lead the fight against environmental plastics

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5056 (Published 06 November 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5056
  1. James Szymankiewicz, GP and regional representative, Surfers Against Sewage
  1. Combe Coastal practice, Ilfracombe EX34 8EG, UK
  1. jamesszy1{at}gmail.com

I welcome Wright and Kelly’s Editorial on the health implications of environmental plastics,1 but I disagree with the conclusion that we need to establish safe thresholds for exposure—the urgent need is to stem the tide of plastic entering the environment in the first place. We must all challenge ourselves, our communities, and our leaders to transition from a linear “chuck it away” economy to a circular one, where every item is manufactured with its ultimate disposal in mind—be it recycling or reusing.

Let’s start by ending single use plastics—the classic example of convenience over common sense. As well as being a GP, I work with Surfers Against Sewage. We have just launched our Plastic Free Coastline campaign working with local communities to reduce usage of plastics. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with a real desire to be part of the solution. As doctors, we have a responsibility to reduce our own plastic footprint and to work with our employers to look at usage on a larger scale. We have a powerful voice—we should use it to support initiatives such as the proposed deposit return scheme for plastic bottles. We should lobby the government to make manufacturers responsible for the final destination of their product.

What you decide to do after reading this letter will determine whether you become part of the solution or part of the problem.


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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