It seems there isn’t a day goes by without plastic pollution being headline news. According to the Beeb, plastic has even become the children’s word of the year! That can only be good, but are we just swimming against the tide? For every small battle that’s won, there’s another waiting to take its place.
I can’t help thinking, though, that a lot of the hype is just about people paying lip service to the problem. What will it take to convince me that the infernal supermarkets’ intentions are honourable?
Take Waitrose, for example. In a blaze of publicity, it was announced that Waitrose were to stop using disposable coffee cups. Very laudable too. I know their projected saving of 58 million of the darn things will make a difference, but…
Let me tell you about my trip to the recently opened Banbury Waitrose. I will confess to having a major hissy fit. At the checkout with a few bottles of finest vino collapso in my trolley, the very helpful lady offered me a ‘wine carrier for life’. This was a star-shaped plastic bag, which not only didn’t feel robust, it must also have taken a hideous quantity of plastic to produce. I responded saying I would rather have a hessian one. The kind lady didn’t understand this… and assured me that I could have the plastic one FREE. That, my dear Waitrose, is the difference between price and cost! It might have been free to me, but at what cost to the planet?
How many times do you buy meat from your local supermarket? How often does the checkout operator reach for a single use plastic bag to house your already wrapped-to-death piece of meat? WHY does something that is packed in a sealed plastic carton need yet another layer of plastic? In case it leaks? Claptrap!
We’ve recently been shocked by pictures of the whale off the coast of Thailand found dead with over 80 carrier bags in its stomach. It’s too easy to dismiss something reported from the other side of the world, but harm to the environment and wildlife is happening right here on our doorsteps! This picture from the National Geographic featured on a wildlife photographer’s page on Facebook is horrific.
Only this week, young Staffordshire wildlife photographer Ben Dalgleish posted these pictures on Twitter. He stopped and rescued this hedgehog before it stumbled onto a busy main road. How many more millions of plastic containers are littering the countryside and killing our precious wildlife? Listen up, you lot at Whitehall. I keep saying it, but we need MORE recycling and FEWER plastic containers! Do something about it while there is something left to save. Don’t you know our hedgehog population is in serious decline having fallen by a staggering 97% since the 1950s.
Lets talk about vegetables. Swede and cucumbers and other fruit and vegetables don’t need plastic overcoats. Are they intended just as a carrier for the bar code? Are supermarket staff so ill-trained that they can’t tell one vegetable or piece of fruit from another? If the supermarkets want to put their money where their corporate mouth is, perhaps some staff training would be a good start.
I’ve been watching the campaigns launched by people who are taking off their unnecessary wrapping and leaving it behind – at source – in the supermarkets. Perhaps its time us consumers starting calling the shots and I think that’s a great way to do it.
I was very interested in this blogger (TGCO – This Girl Can Organise) who carried out her own research into unnecessary packaging in the UK’s biggest supermarkets. M&S failed miserably. By contrast, Morrisons appear to be taking the problem and their responsibility more seriously. Sainsburys was looking good until it came to the organic bananas. Organic bananas wrapped in plastic? That’s an oxymoron if ever I heard one.
Tesco, my bête noire, lived up to my every expectation. None of them good.
But you don’t need me to tell you all this. If you want to shop at a supermarket with a conscience, you can read the ‘Say NO to unnecessary plastic’ blog for yourself.
In my last blog about plastics, I said it’s time that only biodegradable plastics were used and all the rest should be banned. I still stand by that, but having done a bit more homework, I’ve realised it’s not that easy. My thanks to this Australian blog for explaining the difference between compostable and biodegradable plastics.
A Senate enquiry in Australia has revealed that biodegradable plastics are as harmful to the planets as the non-biodegradable ones. These bags need extremely high temperatures to activate the biodegradable process. If put in landfill, they produce huge amounts of harmful methane. So surely, compostable bags must be the answer. Actually, no. They are only compostable in certain conditions, so they are not the answer either.
That’s what I meant about the next battle always waiting in the wings. I know it’s unrealistic to think we can change a 50 year old plastic habit overnight. Yes, the supermarkets must bear their share of the responsibility, but so must we as consumers. Those black bin liners, baby wipes, straws, man-made fabrics, tea bags, cotton buds, and all the other things that contain plastic we take for granted nowadays, have to go.
And we have to put our money where our mouth is too. The Government MUST do more to enforce recycling targets. Yes, it’s going to cost money and we’re the ones who must pay the price. But if we don’t, think of the cost…
Credit 2 hedgehog images @ben_dalgleish1