Not Just About Bottled Water.

For the New Year, I planned to write about Acts of Random Kindness being more effective than New Year’s Resolutions to change the world. However, plastic is playing on my mind… and it goes something like this.

I want to protect the environment and save it for my child. The intention is there. What’s not there are some basic practical choices.

I want to choose a no plastic option. However, even cucumbers are wrapped in plastic. It’s pretty much impossible to buy my chosen shower gel, shampoo or moisturiser without a plastic container. I recycle them but ultimately still use an extra plastic container that I could refill. There’s just no simple way for me to do that. Don’t get me started on bottled drinks! It should be simple… its not.

clear drinking glass filled with water
rawpixel on Unsplash

While as consumers we have a choice actually there are few practical options in the current supply chain. We buy things in plastic containers because its convenient. Plastic bags were convenient and its only taken a 5p charge to radically change social behaviour. It’s now the norm to have ‘bags for life’ in the car at all times!

I read somewhere that our MPs do not currently have ‘saving the world’ on their political agenda as there is no public pressure. I do not believe this perception is correct. My belief is that almost everyone cares about our world, sometimes prompted by the loss of wildlife, sometimes by keeping our treasured wonders of the world for their children and grandchildren. Until I read this quote, I trusted that our national leaders would act accordingly. Now I’m not so sure.

Sandra Laville, Correspondent at The Guardian wrote this article about the proposed coffee cup tariff this week:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/05/will-a-25p-charge-change-britains-throwaway-coffee-cup-culture

I don’t think the 25p tariff will work, sorry. With coffee, that many need, my belief is that 25p isn’t enough of a deterrent… we need encouragement too. I have a collapsible cup which doesn’t leak into your bag, but sometimes leave it at home or just forget to use it – perhaps the 25p would make me remember, but think I need another little push! If you fancy a collapsible cup the link is here:

Stojo collapsible cup from Trouva: https://www.trouva.com/search/S%20Tojo

At the moment, chances are if you happen not to have the collapsible cup, you’ll still buy the coffee. (I have another policy suggestion in the list below.)

I think most people understand they can make small decisions to ‘do their part’, and believe that the government will make the big decisions. This is not necessarily the case. We will lose our natural habitat unless we make it clear to our leaders to act now.

Maybe these leaders are not taking action due to a shortage of ideas.

So here are my policy suggestions, some radical, some simple, because I’d rather stay on Earth than have to live on Mars (it looks kind of bleak there, too much red)…

Bathroom products:

  1. Bath product manufacturers required to recycle through retail and online outlets and provide mechanisms to achieve this. A simple, large basket to put your plastic in would work.
  2. A Corporation Tax reward for the percentage of plastic containers recycled, with an enforced minimum percentage, recycled and refilled.
  3. Switch plastic containers to refillable glass and offer incentives for retailers to hold multiple dispensers in store for customers to refill their chosen bathing product.
  4. On the female front, thinking of tampons, lets just go back to cardboard applicators…

Vegetables and fruit:

  1. Stop shrink wrapping cucumbers, bagging cauliflowers, packing courgettes in polystyrene and plastic. Tax packaged vegetables. Fine retailers who insist on unnecessary packaging (Give the tax revenue to the food banks…).
  2. Stop putting plastic bags on bananas! They have skins… sigh. If suppliers want to brand a banana as ‘kids size’ use a sticky label. Ban the bag!
  3. Replace the plastic bag for loose vegetables and fruit with a paper one. It can’t be that hard. Charge for the plastic bag as in the 5p carrier bag tax. Make the paper one free. That will change consumer behaviour.

Drinks:

  1. Replace vending machines for drinks into dispensing units for water, coke, Sprite, whatever. Charge for it. Offer glass, refillable bottles that you can drop off in the next shop and get 50p back. Remember Corona bottles.
  2. Coffee cups, what to do? How about enabling consumers to drop off their recyclable coffee cup at the next coffee house? Then being rewarded for that action, either with loyalty points, money or donating to a charity. Better still add that amount to the fund to buy some tea for the homeless person sitting outside. That would change my behaviour and I already have a collapsible cup…
Zach Lucero on Unsplash

Perhaps naive, please policy makers, reward manufacturers and retailers for the use of non-plastic packaging. Penalise the use of plastic. Then consumers will actually have a real choice.

As all good things it starts with a single step, so let’s try. If you would like further thoughts please follow https://www.everydayplastic.org. The founder is speaking on Radio 5 Live from 1pm on Tuesday, 8 January 2019.

All the best in helping save the world this year!

Love Ruth x

Header image is a photo by Alex Sajan on Unsplash.

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