'Me and My Plastic', originally written last year because I wanted to look at the amount of plastic I was using, it wasn't good. So, I decided to take up the challenge for just one week to really look at and see exactly how much plastic I was getting through, it wasn’t until I actually focused that I realised how much I was actually using until I made a conscious effort to focus on it; what really shocked me, was the amount, it staggering; what really concerned me was that although I knew I had, like everybody plastic in my life, it wasn’t something that I’d necessarily been conscious of it on a day to day basis. Living in a convenience based, throw-away society, here today, gone tomorrow is a ‘ticking time bomb’ way to live, as we all know, it’s caught up with us; caught up with the planet, to the point where it’s no longer coping.
Are you blasé about the stuff? In fact, do you care? And it’s not until you start looking at your own consumption, facing the reality, that we start to get an understanding of how much we rely on plastic. Like the next person, I'm a guilty as charged. I don't think it's right to say we as consumers are reliant on plastic, we're not really given the choice; plastic is sublimely part of our lives, which is very hard to get away from.
Why Plastic is Part of Our Lives
When did plastic become such a big part of our lives? Would it surprise you to say, 1946. The highest proportion of single plastic use came about really in the 2000's with the introduction of more light weight containers introduced started the unprecedented surge and growth in the one use of plastic bottles. The plastic bags made their way from the United States to the UK in 1982. And as they say the rest is history. The producers at the time knew that plastic would be ‘a problem’, but it clearly wasn’t going to be their problem – they liked the convenience, the public appetite for it and of course the profits they saw from it.
What the Stats Say
In the UK alone, it is estimated 5million tonnes of plastic is used annually. More disturbing is that 40% of families are still not recycling plastic waste, which could be recycled. It is believed that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.
My turning point and why I started to become aware of my consumption was looking at the waste on the yacht I was racing on during the 2015/16 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, the waste that wasn't bio-degradable was stored; the rest of it went overboard; one of the other yachts in the race came across entangled turtles, in disguarded fishing gear and plastic bottles and fortunately for the two turtles, the crew rescued them, last year you’ll remember the washed up whale, autopsied, to be found full of plastic and then we all remember the tear-jerking film clip from Blue Planet II of the mother whale and her dead calf. Just hearing news reports, tv programmes and seeing the effect that plastic has on the world’s oceans and the animals is something that we should all be ashamed of, both individually and collectively through our use of single use and plastics in general. It has now started to hit home, the impact that our use of plastics is having on our oceans and that it is unsustainable, irresponsible and a total crime against the environment, yet there are still people out there, who say, ‘it’s not my problem’; the out of sight, out of mind attitude that swathes of people still have; it’s suggested that by 2050, they'll be more plastic than fishes in the ocean and that's a scary prospect.
A World Before Mass Plastic Consumption
How did we shop before plastic? Simple!! Paper bags, glass and jars, milk bottles, Corona bottles, do you remember them? If you went to the butcher or the fish monger everything would be packaged in paper, even I remember that. If you went to the fish and chip shop it was either the off-white paper or even newspaper. Everything was recycled. The pop man would come around and collect your Corona empty bottles, the milkman (can I even say that these days?) collected the empties. Everything was paper, glass and recycling. And buying loose. The supermarkets have made buying in plastic cheaper than buying single plastic free items.
What’s the Government Doing about Single-Use Plastics?
Plastic-Free Aisles in Supermarkets
Extending the 5p Carrier Bag Tax and increasing it to 20p and into convenience stores too
Banning Cotton buds – only happening in Scotland at the moment, but sure to move south of the border
Making Industries Take More Responsibility
Getting people engaged.
Cutting Down on Plastic Bottles
In the UK alone, we use 13 billion plastic bottles every year — and 7.5 billion of these end up in landfill, being incinerated, or making their way into our oceans, accounting for a third of all plastic pollution in the sea.
The Marine Conservation Society reported that its annual beach clean in 2017 found there has been a 10% rise in plastic pollution on Britain’s beaches, in just the past year. Some 20% of that waste, it said, was from “on-the-go” food and drink packaging, like plastic bottles and sandwich packaging. Source: The Global Citizen
The Government is still looking into the return scheme for bottles and hopefully this will go through.
What I'm doing to reduce my plastic
I've made some small changes already, for starters I'm now obsessed with the recycling of plastic (and everything else). Instead of going to the supermarket I’m trying to buy my fruit and veg, if’ I don’t I make sure that I buy loose products. Even at the greengrocer, I have to be selective because they want to put your fruit and veg into a plastic bag (possibly the most dangerous type, if it ends up in the sea), when I ask for a paper bag, they’ll give me one, but even that has a cellophane slit running down, presumably, so somebody can see what’s in there, well why not just open up the bag!! . I have to say, “No, I don’t need a bag’. Instead of buying meat at the supermarket, I'm now going to the butcher, and not as expensive as you might think, plus the butcher that I use sources from local farms, again there is still the plastic bags to take it all home in. I now buy my milk from the diary and it’s delivered twice a week and the milkman picks up the empties when I put them out. Little changes have a big effect and I'll do more, but there’s obviously still more that I could do; the amount of plastic that I’m still recycling is enormous. I think independent shops like the greengrocers, the butchers and fish mongers (if you can find one) are missing a trick – there’s a demand for ‘how we use to live’ shopping, I know that if these shops were out there, I would use them.
How are you changing your single use plastic habits?
Statistics used in this blog are taken from: http://plasticfree.co.uk/plastic-stats/