Until recently I didn’t particularly think about plastic waste. Did any of us, really? As a good citizen, I put my plastic waste into my recycling bin, and it was emptied every other week, and so my plastic might have been out of sight and out of mind, but it was OK, yes?
But that’s changed now.
Firstly of course there was that programme. It struck a chord, and that chord resonated with my own need to economise and my own decision to just basically buy less stuff.
I’m having to watch what I spend (I wrote about that here – Husbanding my Resources), so I’ve naturally become very aware of what I waste. I don’t waste food, I put my kitchen waste in the compost bin, I recycle everything that can be recycled, and I put the minimum into the general bin.
It got me thinking about why plastic is seen as the bad guy here – it’s certainly not the only thing we throw away. Lots of other materials will hang around for centuries without decomposing – anyone who’s ever had time on their hands of an afternoon will know, thanks to Tony Robinson and the team (who only had three days to do it in) that glass, ceramic, metal and bone don’t rot. But plastic is the one we need to worry about. Why is that?
After all, with plastic, you can recycle it, can’t you? I mean, I’m a good citizen, I put my plastic waste into my recycling bin and it gets emptied every other week, and so my plastic is OK, yes? It goes off to a big factory somewhere, and is turned into more plastic, thus avoiding the need to produce more plastic, and that’s a Good Thing.
Apparently not, according to that other programme, ‘The War Against Plastic‘. There are piles of our plastic rubbish. HUGE piles of our plastic rubbish. In Malaysia. What the actual fuck? I mean, this can’t be my plastic – I’m a good citizen, I put my plastic waste into my recycling bin and it gets emptied every other week, and so my plastic is OK, yes?
We live in a country where the supply chain is phenomenally efficient. I can order something in the morning and have it delivered the same day. But the other end of the supply chain is seriously fucked up, it appears. We buy it, it’s delivered, we unpack it and use it – and then? We throw the packaging away. Into the recycling bin, because we are good citizens and we put our plastic waste into the recycling bin and it gets emptied every other week and so our plastic is OK, yes?
We trust our Local Authority to do what they say they will do – and they appear to be doing it, every other week when they come and empty the recycling bins. But we now know that this isn’t always happening. Where is the break in the link in the chain? The Local Authority assures us that they will recycle our plastics if we put them in the bin. That’s how it works – I pay my Council Tax, and they sort that kind of thing out for me.
And I can’t believe that our Local Authorities are deliberately sending our plastic waste abroad, knowing that it’s going to end up in HUGE piles in Malaysia? So someone, somewhere is promising to recycle our plastic, and being paid to do it – but then not doing it. It’s like fly-tipping on an enormous scale.
Those of us who are good citizens, who put our plastic waste into the recycling bin and get it emptied every other week, should be very angry about that.
Our plastic waste may be out of sight – but it’s no longer out of mind.
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