Waste Plastic Products – action by individuals
In our series of articles about sea-borne plastic waste and what might be done about it, we look at potential action from ordinary people – the likes of you and me.
Our other blog articles, that put this into context, are:
Working for a plastic manufacturer, the Tubeway Blogger is a natural target for others’ concerns about it. There are a lot more opinions about plastic in recent times: “it’s not recyclable”, “it’s evil, a major pollutant”, “we can live without it”, “someone (else) should do something about it”.
These articles are a response to that and involved an amount of diligent research. Possibly the most bizarre idea uncovered was this statement: “But the thing to remember about the problem of plastic ocean pollution is this we can fix it! It’s simple: Pledge to go plastic free”. Hmm. Not sure about this, given that so much in the way of food, drink, clothing, appliances, modes of transport, cables etc rely on or include plastic, so we have settled on wanting plastic manufacture to be concentrated on where it is the best or only suitable material, and going back to our priority list for a more practical plan:
Avoid, Re-design, Re-use, Recycle, (safely) Dispose.
Personal Action As A Consumer
- Avoid the worst products. These can be the most convenient, such as takeaway containers, bottles, straws, shopping bags: www.bbc.co.uk/plasticsaction
- Re-use containers. Wash out jam jars, buy refill packs, carry a spare empty drink bottle.
- Change your habits. So many to choose from. Include ready meals, takeaways, or to cap it all drive-through fast food restaurants. If you want to really scare yourself, take a closer look at the salt and fat content in these meals, or better still, watch a drive-through car park early evening for a short period. Open car window to order, pay, collect. Park up and eat with the engine running. Open car window to tip the containers out onto the floor and drive off.
- Recycle. Even if it means taking items home with you or leaving them in the car until you have access to a recycling point. Rinse things out like baked bean tins so they don’t contaminate the paper they drip on in the bin. Tear the windows out of envelopes and check if wrapping paper is recycleable (if it tears it will recycle as paper).
Personal Action As A Voter and Citizen
One company, Walkers Crisps, have gone a fair way to improving the recyclability of their packaging, but not without a fight. The media made much of a 30 year old Walkers packet being washed up on a Cornish beach, in seemingly perfect condition. A social media campaign ensued, asking consumers to post their empty packets back to Walkers, who would have to pay for the privilege, until two things happened: Royal Mail begged people to stop doing this as the packets fouled up their automated mail machines, and Walkers announced a commitment to change their packaging by 2025 to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable, along with recycling points in the interim. https://www.walkers.co.uk/recycle
You might write to your MP and local councilors about recycling collections, public recycle bins and water fountains.
Have a look online for other ideas, such as an African photographer who shoots models in littered areas to draw attention to them, or a Hong Kong initiative where discarded food containers are tested for DNA, to help compile images of possible miscreants. There are also litter clean-up initiatives and litter shaming sites.
Is It Just Plastic We Need To Worry About?
No, but that does not reduce it as a priority, especially if progress can be made on usage, habits and recycling in addition to addressing other issues. There are, unfortunately, many other serious concerns:
- Global Warming. For many, this is far and away the biggest menace to the planet. We are not discussing it here in any detail, but still worth a think in this context: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-45942814
- When using plastic can make more sense than seemingly “greener” alternatives. The debate on plastic, paper and fabric bags is interesting: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47027792
- Are natural fabrics better for the eco-system than modern plastic derived alternatives? Cotton in particular is not what it may seem, and the insatiable drive of the fashion industry might be getting off without much criticism: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/5a1a43b5-cbae-4a42-8271-48f53b63bd07
Don’t forget to look at the companion blog posts: