the ordinary blog
October saw the first fracking in the UK despite massive local and national opposition. Our government have had to pass a law to bypass the wishes of the local councils to literaly force feed this to us. At times like these I don’t feel like I am living in a democracy. If we have a government who cares more about the gas industry than its people then what chance do we have of getting any assistance with the plastic problem and other areas concerning the long term welfare of our country? Unless it starts costing rich influential people significant money I’d say NONE.
Reading How to Give Up Plastic was uplifting, motivating and yet still ultimately depressing. The idea of going through each room and giving ways to replace plastic items started great. Our bathroom is just full of plastic so going out and getting a shampoo bar and finding it actually works was really satisfying. The bit about our clothes a revelation although I did feel a bit silly not realising that Polyester and in fact POLY anything just meant plastic. We can all decide to wear more cotton and other natural fibres and I understand the idea about buying clothes from charity shops but that maybe a step too far for me. The further we got through the house though and the harder it got. Plastic is such an ordinary part of our lives that you forget it is there or in the case of crips and crackers try and ignore it. Realising the scale of the problem is to use a Naomi Klein expression "hide behind the sofa scary".
There are also some good links to some online shops that specialise in plastic free goods and people who have managed to go plastic free. Of these www.pfree.co.uk a website created by a family who decided to see if they could live plastic free in 2016 is the most useful. To be honest I take my hat off to them, they are able to stick to their principles so much better than I can. Trying to shop plastic free in a supermarket is like trying to get all the sand off you after spending a day at the beach! In theory it might be possible but in reality you still end up with loads clinging onto your skin…and in places you didn’t expect! So to do it they have had to stop buying quite a bit of stuff they liked before which I can only admire them for doing it. I show no signs of having their willpower. Although I am eating a lot less crisps and yogurts.
Checking on their site then reveals that they have to totally avoid supermarkets and reply on local and online shops. Shopping for our family of 5+ this feels like mission impossible right now. I have bought some draw sting bags for fruit and veg but can’t use them that often so I end up forgetting to bring them and then I tried Costco but that was as bad if not worse. We do have a local butcher but he uses nearly as much plastic as the supermarkets but when I brought my own tub they were happy to use that so I finally had a plastic free shopping trip which felt brilliant.
The book moved more into increasing awareness and protesting because there is only so much we can do on our ownWith governments around the world showing no sign of taking any serious action then putting pressure on Coca Cola, Walkers and our supermarkets is a good course of action and teaching us how to protest firmly but politely makes a lot of sense. Our family drink a lot of squash so my first email was to Robinsons who are owned by Britvic. To their credit they gave me a polite reply a few days later talking up their plans to use more recycled plastic in the next few years but that’s as much as they feel the need to commit to. In the budget this week there will now be a tax for plastic that is not at least 30% recycled so it would appear that companies like Britvic are doing the minimum required. As the BBC documentary Drowning in Plastic showed very clearly recycled plastic can help but is not the answer. Robinsons used to use glass bottles and although I explained that it was the way I wanted to buy they offered no sign that they would move back in this direction. Plastic is too convenient for these companies when they take no responsibility for its disposal.
t’s going to take time but I will get better but this is why the pressure on the supermarkets is so important. I’d just like them to give people the fair choice. But there are some food industries that are 100% reliant on disposable plastic like yogurts and crisps. The option for us as consumers is to give these foods up but what is the option for Mulller and Walkers for example? Finally I worry about the cost impact which is a major consideration especially as more and more people in the UK are struggling to feed themselves. For example I thought an easy move would be to get my milk delivered in glass bottles just like everyone did when I was a lad (I remember thinking how odd it was for people to buy milk in a supermarket) so I checked price per pint and compared it to what we pay at Lidl. I thought it would be a little extra but for out current usage it will cost me an extra £250 approx per year to go plastic free!! I often feel that buying eco friendly has a tax attached its like buying things for a wedding. It seems to give companies the “green” light to make everything more expensive and this needs to be stopped and preferably reversed
So going back to the book, it is an honest appraisal of where we are today. Yes the scale of the problem is staggering just look at how much plastic is actually in your house and times that by how many homes you can imagine. Better still just watch Drowning in Plastic. Will is keen to stress that we are not to blame which is great and we need to move beyond pointing fingers, accept that plastic appeared to be a brilliant solution but just like CFC’s, Asbestos and leeches they all were flawed and need to be banned.
Reading about evolution this autumn I was reminded of the point made by in Sapiens and other books that for societies to function we need to hold opinions that in conflict with each other. Thus we can care deeply about an issue like plastic and still act at times in a way that proves the opposite and so I am reminded of my own two faces all the time these days. I need help to go plastic free and I know I am not alone!
I am 43 and lucky to have a fantastic wife and 3 kids who give my life purpose and make it fun too. To pay the bills I am a Software Consultant and have been for the past (mostly enjoyable) 18 years.