I have been heartened recently to see the general public starting to get revved up about the dangers of plastic rubbish on our wildlife. David Attenborough and his team on the wonderful TV series Blue Planet II seemed to kick start this. Images of birds feeding plastic to their chicks and marine life throttled by the rings from beer cans do tend to pull on the heartstrings.Now it seems that every other news programme or article features people clearing rubbish from beaches or reports of school children dumping the single use water bottles for reusables. Instagram is full of folk living plastic free lives, or at least attempting to reduce their use of plastic items.
Being plastic free is not mainstream
Photo courtesy of @strawlessinchico. Check them out on Instagram!
It is tempting to think the anti-plastic campaign is becoming mainstream. However, if I look around my office I see single use bottles on many of my colleague’s desks. Lots of them turn up in the morning with plastic lined disposable coffee cups from a well known coffee chain. To my annoyance, I frequently pull plastic and other recyclables out of the general waste bins in our kitchen area and put them in the recycling bin.
When I go to the supermarket, I see little evidence of a reduction in plastic packaging. Very few items are available in glass or cardboard. Practically every non-canned item is packed in plastic. It’s tricky even to buy your fruit and vegetables loose some of the time. If you can, they are sometimes more expensive! Paper bags are rarely offered, except for mushrooms. Even if shoppers are really motivated to reduce plastic in their lives, manufacturers and retailers aren’t making it easy for us!
I have been carrying my own reusable carrier bags for years. It made me very happy when the 5p levy was introduced on plastic bags in shops, but would prefer it retailers were only allowed to sell reusable fabric ones. Shoppers would soon get into the habit of carrying a couple if they had to pay more for them.
Plastic free shopping costs more
Plastic free shopping involves taking your own containers to the butcher, baker or greengrocer. Let’s face it, how many of these independent shops survive? If you live somewhere trendy you might have a plastic free food store where everything is sold loose. These are great (if a little pricey), but my nearest one is 50 miles away. I also don’t have time to go from shop to shop. I work full time, as many of us do, so one trip a week to the supermarket is all that is feasible. Because we need to stick to our budget, Aldi is our supermarket of choice and it’s full of goods carefully wrapped in layers of non-recyclable plastic film. Buying cheaper seems to involve more plastic sadly.
Even my local market – which used to give you everything in paper bags – now throws it all in plastic, unless I manage to stop them first!
A glimmer of hope
All isn’t lost. There are faint glimmerings of hope for a plastic free life. Iceland, for example, is the first supermarket to pledge to get rid of plastic packaging in their own range foods by 2023. This is great news!
I hope the other supermarkets follow suit. What stance are they taking currently?
Aldi states: ‘…in March 2018, we created a wide-ranging packaging reduction strategy and committed to ensuring that all packaging on our own-brand products will be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022’.
The Co0p says: ‘Our long term ambition is for all packaging to be recycled where possible’.
Sainsbury’s policy states: ‘We’ve agreed to hit a series of ambitious targets by 2025, including making 100% of our plastic reusable, recyclable or compostable.’
Tesco has pledged to ban all non recyclable plastic packaging by 2019.
This all sounds like a drop in the plastic filled ocean. What about all the products they sell that aren’t own brand?
Sadly, I don’t believe retailers or the general public will do enough to reduce single use plastics – and the subsequent damage to the environment, our health and wildlife – unless they are forced to by Government. It is up to us to pressurise our politicians to do more!
I would love to see a return to deposit return schemes. It was quite a thrill as a kid to collect up glass bottles and take them back to the corner shop for pocket money! It might even get some of our children off their games consoles…
Greenpeace are currently running a petition to try to persuade the supermarkets to ditch throw away plastic packaging altogether. You can sign it here. You can also find some of my ideas for ways to ditch plastic here.
What do you think about our current levels of plastic waste? What can we do to reduce it in our lives?
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will earn a small commission. Thanks!