I’ve now done multiple speeches about plastics and waste. The more I do, the more committed I am to changing our wasteful, disposable society.
We’ve adopted practices that are ridiculous in their wastefulness and think nothing of it. Here are some examples:
Online Shopping: I live in rural Dorset and do most of my shopping online. The eco-credentials of this are dependant on how many things can be delivered at the same time, the returns system and of course, the packaging. Where possible I choose the eco-delivery slot so that my goods can be transported along with others being delivered close by. But I’ve found that you can’t generally return stuff on vans coming to deliver, that the excess packaging on delivered goods is ludicrous, and most vans leave their engine running when they come to the door.
- Paper napkins etc: They come with everything – a glass of water, a plate of food or almost any item you buy on a train, or a cafe. It’s not just one napkin, but often wads of them – or one for your lap, another under your cup. Why can’t people just help themselves, if they really need one? I’m a keen bridge player and sometimes play in charity events. It has become common practice for the organisers to pull out large plasticised table cloths to put on the bridge tables at the same time as tea. They’re used for a few minutes and discarded – along with paper napkins and doilies too. Aargh.
- Medical waste: Of course we have to consider hygiene, but things have gone too far in the health sector. Go to see a nurse or a dentist and you’re given a disposable garment – one for you and one for the nurse. Trays of surgical instruments that used to be cleaned are now single use and chucked after each patient, whether used or not. I could write a whole blog on this. Why can’t we review the system, to see what really makes sense – and what doesn’t?
- Gardening plastics: My mother used to be a regular customer at the garden centre, but I don’t remember her coming home with reams of plastic and multiple disposable garden pots. It’s very different now. I bought some trees the other day and they came with a truckload of plastic wrapping – on their roots too. And, the bank of trees planted in our field have plastic protectors, which look pretty unappealing and then disintegrate – leaving micro plastics behind.
- Plastic farms: Fields of plastic to cover crops, bales of plastic for silage and hay, single use plastic containers – its now so embedded in the system, farmers would be lost without it.. But there must be a better way – even if lots of it gets recycled.
- Airplane meals: I rarely eat on airplanes any more. I can’t bear the waste. The food is generally terrible, so I don’t want it all and you can’t simply select the items you do want. Even worse, the cutlery, napkins, condiments and containers are often simply thrown away with everything else on the tray, even if you haven’t touched them. I’ve re-designed the system in my head, so that you can select the items you’d like to eat or drink on the screen on the back of the seat – and it’s automated selection, a bit like a vending machine. And all re-usable, lightweight plastic containers.
- Trains: Would you like a cup of coffee, a stirrer, a plastic mug, a plastic lid, 3 napkins, 4 creams, 2 sugars – how many things come with your simple cup of coffee. I can’t do it anymore, so if I forget my refillable cup I do without. They even give you a napkin if you order a bottle of water (no more for me – take my own). I’ve often refused a napkin and found they stuff it into the waste. And, the train companies don’t seem to have got it together to recycle anything. Why not? It’s perfectly possible.
- Printers: I’m ashamed at the number of printers I’ve had. They’re not made to last. They’re not even made to work well when you are using them. If a bit of paper gets stuck it’s horrendously difficult to extract it from whatever part of the machine you find it – sometimes it’s actually hard to track it down. Of course printers are incredibly cheap so when they break there’s no possibility of them being repaired because it’s far cheaper to get a new one. And, printer companies make a fortune through selling ink at exorbitant prices and trying to make it impossible for anyone to use recycled cartridges – but I do! (Officewyse)
- Cables: How many printer cables have you had that you’ve never used? They come as standard with any machine, even if you’ve got one already. And, what about the cables and other electronic paraphernalia that you’ve got in drawers or boxes, that you can’t identify what they’re for. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve got a lot. Most of the cables will have copper, which is not only a valuable resource but has a significant impact to mine, manufacturer and transport. There’s so many other e-waste issues, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
- Integrated light fittings: I’ve been renovating our barn. Modern lighting is complicated – it’s not just a question of buying lampshades and light bulbs any more. Of course I’ve specified LED throughout but there’s another huge issue that many people aren’t aware of. Lots of light fittings are now designed so that when the LED lamp blows, you have to discard the whole fitting with it – they’re called ‘integrated lights’. Clearly, they’re are designed to last a long time – perhaps even ten years, but then you have to throw them away and get new ones. How wasteful is that?
- Toys: Go into a toyshop and look at the shelves. It could just be a plastic dump except that everything is shiny and new. Go to a fast food restaurant like Mcdonalds and pick up your free plastic gift. How long are they supposed to last? Not long – but perhaps longer than they continue to amuse. And, how much packaging is there – much of it discarded immediately, rather than being used for long term storage.
I could go on and on with lots more examples and I’d have no problem expanding on the points I’ve made above, but am going to leave that for future blogs. Just thought I’d indulge in a rant about just a few of my pet waste hates. As you can see, this is not simply about plastic, it’s about our extremely wasteful society and how much stuff we simply throw away without even thinking. If anyone feels inclined, add some of your examples in Comments.