This article is not about credit cards, although they do have a part to play, it’s a plea for a New Years resolution to help solve the plastic proliferation problem. Please prioritise plastic purchases.
The statistics are frightening – a million plastic bottles a minute are sold worldwide, British companies have shipped more than two and a half million tons of plastic waste to China since 2012, and we are getting through more than three hundred and twenty million tons of plastic each and every year.
Unsurprisingly for a material that can remain in the environment for more than a thousand years, plastic has wreaked havoc on our once pristine planet. We have become increasingly addicted to acquiring vast quantities of stuff wrapped in plastic , with little thought spared for what happens to it when it is discarded. Recycling rates in the U K have flat-lined for the last five years with just fifty seven percent of all plastic bottles collected for recycling. Recycling will never offer a durable solution to the plastic crisis – we simply have to use less plastic in the first place. It’s a question of changing a mind-set and the dependency on plastic. The average time for a plastic bottle to degrade is at least four hundred years, ensuring the food and drink we consume now will taint the environment for centuries. But this is not just about aesthetics – plastic kills. Death by plastic packaging has become an increasingly realistic prospect for the very flora and fauna that make our planet so special. About a third of fish caught off the coast of the UK now contain traces of plastic. Some plastics contain toxins which are thought to be carcinogenic.
Not surprisingly the BBC’s Blue Planet program on the world’s oceans by David Attenborough has provided the catalyst for change – it has been a wake-up call for the Government, businesses and consumers alike.
Mr Gove the environment secretary was so shocked by the revelations that he has ordered an immediate review of current legislation and has outlined a four-point plan with a view for change. This follows the successful ploy of charging for plastic carrier bags resulting in a reduction in demand of eighty five percent within six months, showing what can be done through Government intervention. It is now likely that a refundable deposit scheme on single-use plastic bottles will be implemented next year. The Mayor of London is now planning a series of water-drinking fountains in the Capital to cut out the use of single-use water bottles, and it will not be long before the supermarkets introduce a plastic-free aisle for shopping much like the gluten-free or organic sections. This will not be for altruistic reasons but will help them retain their market share in a competitive marketplace – so the end justifies the means!
The UN is now poised to move ahead with a landmark treaty to protect the high seas.
Helen Gosh in her Christmas message said that the Trust were talking to the Government on matters of national importance – let us hope that plastic proliferation is on the agenda. In the meantime it would seem sensible for the N T to take a lead by eliminating plastic from their shops. No more plastic Christmas trees or decorations, no more plastic carrier bags – twisted paper alternatives may be more expensive but they are environmentally friendly. Penzance in Cornwall is the first town in England to be awarded “plastic-free status”, so if they can achieve it so can the Trust.
Apparently new year’s resolutions have a long history. The Babylonians pledged to return borrowed objects and repay their debts at the start of each year, while the Romans kicked off January by making a vow to the god Janus (from whom the month takes its name). That’s centuries of potential for broken promises.
It seems that the main reason why new year’s resolutions fail is that people are unrealistic, and another reason is people are not necessarily ready to change.
Challenging ourselves to avoid plastic is fun and it is amazing what we can do if we put our minds to it.
You might like to consider reinstating your local milkman and have your daily pinta delivered in those shiny glass bottles, untainted by plastic. Don’t think of it as just a drop in the ocean!
P.S Check out Ellen MacArthure’s fight against plastic – then take a look at the reader comments following.