Another post about plastic. You can read my first one (‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’) here.
Because it isn’t going to just sort itself out.
As regular followers of this blog will know, grandchild #4 arrived the other day. And I worry about what our planet will be like for my grandchildren’s generation, 20 years from now.
Hell, I worry about what it will be like for my generation, 20 years from now.
I started to collect all of my single-use plastic waste. It’s only a couple of days’ supply, because I ran out of space on my kitchen bench, and people were starting to look at me funny. And I think that in itself speaks volumes about, a) just how much single-use plastic we get through and b) our attitude to rubbish – it’s OK to pile it up somewhere else (somewhere like, oh I don’t know, Malaysia maybe), but we shouldn’t pile it up on our own kitchen bench.
But anyway, here it is, in all its glory.
The question is, what to do about it. And it isn’t an easy question to answer. I’ve looked at these 9 individual items, and tried to think what I could or should do about it. What are the alternatives? And are they viable/sustainable alternatives?
In no particular order –
- Plastic takeaway container – they used to do takeaways in tinfoil boxes with cardboard lids. Is that better? Can they be recycled? I seem to remember the card had a shiny surface underneath, maybe that makes it unrecyclable? At least you can keep the plastic ones and re-use them, I suppose.
- Yogurt pot and lid. The yogurt pot is card on the outside, lulling me into thinking that it’s recyclable – but it’s plastic on the inside. And of course you don’t find that out until you’ve brought it home and eaten the yogurt. And why does a pot of yogurt need two lids? Could we just have one lid at least?? If the card/plastic combo pot means it’s harder to recycle, I think I’d rather it just came in a plastic pot.
- Biscuit wrapper – we want our biscuits to be crisp, it’s going be difficult to do that without the protection that plastic offers. And I think that’s the main problem – plastic is just so darn useful.
- String bag for oranges. I think some of us think this is actual string. It isn’t – it’s plastic. We could buy our oranges loose and put them in a paper bag (although I thought we were supposed to be saving paper?). This would also have the advantage of meaning we could buy exactly the number that we want, rather than the number the supplier wants to sell to us. The suppliers won’t be happy about that. Actually, oranges come in their own wrapping, so maybe we don’t need the paper bag either.
- Milk bottle and lid. I remember when milk was delivered in bottles to the doorstep – and mothers didn’t go out to work, and everyone watched Morecombe and Wise, and there was always jam for tea. I also remember a lot of milk being wasted or having to be ‘used up’ because it was about to ‘go over’. Add in the cost of transporting the extra weight of glass milk bottles, and the cost of delivering them, collecting them and cleaning them, and I don’t think that’s a viable alternative. And that’s without the inconvenience of milk going off if it’s left out too long, or being nicked which I suspect it would be these days. I can buy 4 pints for £1.09 which is 27p a pint. There’s no way that I could have it delivered for anything like that amount. And does anyone really know if you can recycle the lids??
- Sticky tape – I think genuine Sellotape is biodegradable? It certainly seems to degrade pretty quickly if you use it to stick the pages of a book together. But what about Scotch tape? Or the cheap stuff you get at the Pound shop? There’s always string.
- Cling film. Well, we could just stop using it – but it does a very good job at keeping leftovers fresh. There would certainly be a lot more wasted food in this house without it. Some things keep well if you put them on a plate with a bowl over the top – but not everything. Maybe we could wrap things in paper? I remember when the butcher wrapped the meat in paper – and by the time you’d got it home the blood had seeped through. Not nice. And besides, I thought we were supposed to be saving paper?
- Punnet (cherries) and film lid – buy them loose and fill a paper bag? With the added advantage that you could buy exactly what you wanted, which the supermarkets won’t like. That could work – but again, I thought we were supposed to be saving paper?
We’ve chosen to use one of the most durable materials on the planet as if it’s disposable. We’re not going to stop using plastic – but we really really need to get smart about it. We need to use and re-use and recycle our plastic over and over and over again, so that we never actually throw any of it away.
Because with plastic there is no ‘away’.
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