Brits keep churning out the plastic

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Plastic waste at chez Clark

NEWS AND VIEWS: You would have thought that by now the manufacturers, the retailers and the consumers working together would have found a way to reduce the amount of plastic they use and throw away. But no. All that talk, all those beautiful but horrific images from the Blue Planet series presented by Sir David Attenborough have done little to change the ingrained habits of the British people.

Plastic waste at chez Clark

Joe and Harry Clark helped their family to count 407 pieces of plastic waste in a week, including 112 wet wipes and 15 bottles – THE EVERYDAY PLASTIC SURVEY

We are told today that the average household in Britain throws away 128 pieces of plastic a week, as discovered by a survey. Extrapolating that figure, nationwide British people dispose of 185 billion pieces of plastic a year at home.

Sixty-five percent (almost 2/3) is in the form of plastic wrapping and film. These items are rarely recycled. Eleven percent is collected for recycling. The survey was carried out by Everyday Plastic, a campaign group whose objective is to reduce waste through education.

Twenty-eight percent of plastic items are sent to landfill. One hundred and seventy-nine households participated in the study.

Rebecca Clarke’s household threw away four hundred and seven pieces of plastic in seven days. It included a hundred and twelve wet wipes. I guess that this family is using wet wipes because of the coronavirus pandemic. The family could have washed their hands with soap and water and the same goes for surfaces. Her family is trying to reduce their consumption as much as possible by for example buying milk in glass bottles.

I am sure that pretty much every household in Britain would be surprised at the quantity of plastic they throw away weekly. It adds up dramatically. As mentioned, the manufacturers and retailers have a role to play but they are doing little if nothing about it.

The same goes for items of clothing made of polyester which shed microparticles when washed in a washing machine. These particles find their way all over the planet particularly into the bellies of marine wildlife and thence to the bellies of humans when we eat the wildlife.

We know that plastic finds its way into the oceans in enormous quantities (in the millions of tonnes). It is toxic to the planet and specifically to the animals that live in the oceans and seas. Perhaps it is time for the consumer to put some pressure on the retailers.

The other day I noticed a very small reduction in the use of plastic by retailers. Marks & Spencer’s were using paper bags at the grocery section rather than plastic ones. That is about the sum total of it!

And what do I do? I fail like most others only I live alone and therefore use less plastic generally and I am concerned to try and mimise plastic use as best I can. It’s hard because it is everywhere like salt and sugar in processed supermarket foods.