It’s a bit rubbish!

I’ve been watching Ben Fogle’s New Lives in the Wild and it’s made me reflect on the damage we continue to inflict on nature. Ben interviews people who have chosen to live in harmony with their surroundings, with minimal impact, minimal waste and minimal reliance on the outside world… It’s rare that someone chooses a life like this, as it’s hard. It takes focus, determination and the willingness to whether any storms alone, as necessary. Working through injury, disaster and isolation to achieve the dream of independence and self- reliance. Not everyone could survive, not everyone would take this path, but those who do seem happier than the rest of us, somehow.

We currently have seas full of litter, with massive impact on sea-life. We also have rubbish tips overflowing with mountains of plastic and unrecyclable waste. These waste mountains will only increase in size, and invade our natural habitats. These mountains will ultimately kill off our wildlife and erode our plant life, potentially leaving us with a wasteland. Our oceans are filling with plastic, killing marine life and permanently destroying their environment. Turtles tangled in plastic packaging, whales digesting more plastic and dying, plastic bags that are 75 years old stuck at the bottom of the ocean never to decompose. We also have rubbish tips overflowing with mountains of plastic and non-recyclable waste. These mountains will only increase in size. It’s a bit rubbish!!

For the sea, is there any way we can invent a some kind of filtration to extract the plastic without harming the marine life? The main problem being what to do with the plastic that’s extracted. Could we make them into bricks for the growing need for decent housing? I’ve seen plastic turned into trainers and furniture, what else can we make out of a material that is not recyclable? How do we stop plastic manufacture, the repeated manufacture of the same item that is being thrown away? I saw a mini-coat-hanger in Tesco yesterday which is definitely progress but we should not even be producing more plastic coat-hangers. How can we get the one thrown into the waste back into the shops? They’d only need cleaning. We need to up the ante on goods going back to the supplier, not being sorted in massive recycling dumps and going nowhere…

We have a weekly collection of our rubbish in the UK, including recycling. I have been thinking about what goes into my recycling at home and how it could be eradicated. I’m inclined to recommend that we introduce a global ban on plastic production from January 2021. I don’t see how else we will innovate fast enough to eradicate plastic waste… banning all new plastic will force innovation and there is much to innovate.

The predominant waste type I recycle is packaging, and I suspect this is the same for most people. So what about the following potential solutions:

  1. Reintroducing glass bottles for liquids like milk, juice and sauces. These could be recycled automatically as is through the retailers, as well as delivery services such as Milk and More.
  2. For delivery services like Amazon, we could compress plastic bags into a robust box or crate. These would be exchanged at the point of delivery to be reused by the same delivery service or a different one so that no further plastic crates are needed. It would also reduce consumption of cardboard boxes. No incentive is required, it’s just part of the process! We can use wood shavings and paper packing materials instead of bubble wrap, plus plant some trees in partnership with Ecosia.
  3. With other plastics, they could be channelled directly to floor and tiling manufacturers. No new plastics would be created. The old floors could be recycled through the same mechanism.
  4. For medical equipment that makes up an enormous proportion of waste, we could revert to glass pill bottle, glass syringes and introduce a sterilisation unit at each hospital or doctor’s surgery.
  5. As many children use plastic plates and cutlery, this could be produced solely from recycled plastic. No new plastic creation would be required. For products like this, I’d like to see equipment exchange between families become more frequent. The theory of pass it on by handing it down. These plates last years, there’s no need to buy new ones!

Having watched a shocking Countryfile feature about sewage reaching our rivers, particularly in rivers people swim in, the standards for sewage treatment plants need to be raised with no compromise. I do not want to swim next to a used sanitary towel or untreated excrement. Let’s push the authorities to do better, and quickly. Single use sanitary products could also be eradicated fairly quickly. Honestly, none of the current recyclable alternatives excite me that much. Modibodi produce pants with inbuilt sanitary towels but these are not great for heavy flow days, or overnight. There are also sanitary towels made of cloth with a popper to hold them in place (I haven’t tried them but suspect chafing is an issue if your thighs are like mine!) and I would think slippage is also an issue. Tampons are the least messy, but the best applicators are made of plastic, the cardboard ones pinch on the way in and don’t always slide smoothly. Mooncup is a great idea in theory, but not practical unless there’s a private basin. The women know why. Having periods is a messy business, and I’m sure the inventors can do better. Please do better, then I’ll have the incentive to transition, which I actually want to do…

Not the most pleasant picture to end on, but I hope you get what I’m trying to say. In summary, innovate to actually incentivise people to change as the new solution is not only better, it’s saving the planet! People only change their behaviour when the alternative offers massive benefits, especially with the little things that seem not to matter that much, but really matter when the whole global population does it…

Thank you for listening.

Love Ruth x

P.S. Please see my previous two posts on Climate Change and solutions here:

P.P.S. As an addendum, I realised today that one of the main sources of plastic pollution is the black bin bag! How can we eradicate these?? Ideas gratefully received.

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