Plastic is a problem for the environment. It’s hard not to feel guilty about the price our planet pays for plastic.
But is it fair when most affordable products come in plastic packaging?
More than 100,000 people in the UK paid attention to their plastic use for an entire month. The Big Plastic Count was a month-long effort led by the environmental nonprofits Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic.
How do people cope with the dependency on a material that has become part of our everyday lives?
Jules Birkby, who lives in a neighborhood near Hyde Park, threw away 124 pieces of plastic during her week of counting. Some days she found only 3 or 4 packages. The packaging in party bags and sticker packs for her daughter Emmy’s sixth birthday was the most frustrating, she says.
When Julia realised her household was using a lot of plastic and “shocked” by it, she decided to take action. Jules, a Leeds artist, talks about what we can change if we want to reduce our personal ecological footprint.
She says that the party bags had all the stickers individually wrapped in their own cellophane bags and then they were packed together in a bigger bag.
Jules is having difficulty finding information to help her protect the environment as a consumer.
“Occasionally, we can only do so much. It’s in the manufacturer’s hands. The whole thing is such a juggling act.” “Rarely, we can only do so much. It’s in the manufacturer’s hands. The whole thing is such a juggling act.”
Xavier Taylor, who is 25 and an up-and-coming firefighter, counted 70 pieces of plastic in a London creek. The cucumber packaging was the most annoying one to him.
He says that it’s easy to buy fruit and vegetables without any plastic when he has family abroad.
He wants to see more local produce in shops, which would reduce the need for excessive packaging.
He says, “I get increasingly frustrated with the fact that supermarkets sell so much plastic.”
Even though he may be able to find alternatives, he still says the cost of living without goods is prohibitive.
“The price of everything is going up,” he says. “But things that are better for the environment are more expensive.”
What the government and supermarkets say:
- The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told BBC News that they have restricted the use of plastic straws and banned plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
- The government is also introducing a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles – consumers pay a small deposit which they get back when the plastic is returned.
- It is also consulting on banning single-use plastic plates, cutlery and balloon sticks.
- On behalf of supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium told BBC News that the industry is investing in re-use and refill options “with the aim to become mainstream in the next five years”.
- The BRS also says that many supermarkets are working with suppliers to “eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging”.