Plastic, it’s become a dirty word.
But it’s not plastic that is actually the problem, it’s us. It’s our excessive consumption of it. We have become addicted as a society to the convenience of single-use plastic. And the thing about addictions is they are hard to break.
Over the last few decades, seeing our fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic is normal, we expect it. It has become second nature to us to be able to get a takeaway coffee or a bottle of water on the way to work. And even paying 5 pence for a plastic shopping bag, is only 5 pence after all, so if you forget to take a bag it’s not the end of the world, there are more at the till you can buy.
The problem is not just us as individuals, it’s bigger than us. Our homes are full to bursting with single use plastic, which we have not necessarily chosen. We may not want our bananas (Hilarious really as bananas have their own natural wrapping!!) wrapped in plastic but that is how the shop sells them so we don’t have much choice but to have them like that. When it comes to reducing plastic waste, the supermarkets have got to lead the way on this.
Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall and Anita Rani examine our single use plastics on BBC’s ‘War on Plastic”
Research suggests that as much as one-third of the UK’s total plastics waste footprint, equivalent to 810,000 tonnes annually, is believed to originate in supermarkets (BBC War on Plastic). This is an insane statistic, particularly when you think that some shops are able to sell their products without packaging. Sadly the reason for this comes down to cost and profit. The War on Plastic programme exposed the price difference between buying loose unpackaged produce and buying those wrapped in plastic, and the difference was shocking. The loose produce was up to 41% more expensive, as it is more likely to be damaged in transit or spoil prematurely, resulting in it not being sold. When it comes to big business, profit comes above the planet.
We must not underestimate our power as a customer of the supermarkets, to demand and create change. Keep lobbying your supermarkets, call them out on social media and tell them that they need to change or you will take your business and your money elsewhere.
However, individually we must also take responsibility and accept that it is greed and over-consumption that has created the problem in the first place and consider the challenge that we need to consume less. We must also accept that it might take us more time, more effort or more money to reduce our plastic usage. This is surely a necessary price to pay to reduce the terrible impact we are having on our beautiful world, but a price and a challenge nonetheless.
Plastic Free July is happening right now and is such a great initiative. It’s encouraging people for one month to make an effort to change their single-use plastic habits. It’s encouraging them to ditch the plastic water bottle, the coffee cup, the plastic shopping bag and to focus on reusing, rather than recycling. The BBC documentary “War on Plastic” exposed the dark side of the recycling industry when it revealed that rather than being recycled, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of plastic are flown to far off countries such a Malaysia and dumped
“When we put [these items] in our recycling back in the UK, we think we’re doing the right thing. I don’t feel so good now; I feel embarrassed, I feel ashamed, I feel angry, I feel I’ve been lied to and I really want to know who’s responsible for this horrendous mess. Is it our local councils, is it our Government, is it our supermarkets, is it the manufacturers of these goods? They’re all in it together.” (Hugh Fearnley- Wittingstall, BBC War on Plastic)
Hugh examines the mountains of plastic dumped in Malaysia, many bearing UK supermarkets, brands and even local councils markings.
Therefore, whilst recycling remains such a tricky situation to monitor, reduction and reusing are something which we can all personally do. As a family we have recently asked our milkman to deliver our milk in glass bottles rather than plastic, and it’s left me thinking why did we (as a nation) ever change to plastic in the first place?
It’s a long, emotive, complex and serious discussion, but one that we must keep having. We mustn’t underestimate the progress that has already been made, but recognise too that we all have a long way to go as a society and individually.
So this July, why not start taking steps to kick your single-use plastic addiction or if you have already made a start why not see what else you can do? Do let us know any tips and ideas you have come across, we love to hear them!