5 WAYS TO FIX THE PLASTIC PROBLEM
A LIST OF FIVE AS A STARTER FOR TEN
It’s fair to say that this list is a massive simplification of an incredibly complex problem. The interdependencies within the global economy create a web of issues that are not easy to tackle. But tackle them we must. And to my mind, there’s a pincer-movement we can all play a part in that will hopefully win out. As consumers, as voters, as humans with loud voices - we must step-up to the challenge and fight for change.
1 / MINDSET
In the words of Al, it’s an inconvenient truth, but there is no doubt that if we want to bumble along on this planet for generations to come, we have to examine our lives and re-think what’s important. But there is no amount of apocalyptic imagery that can make this happen. That wake-up call comes when it comes. But when it does, it’s our responsibility to own that truth and shake up our normal. We have to switch gears away from thinking of ourselves as consumers and rating our happiness by the stuff we own. Without getting too deep, we need to re-frame what it really means to be alive.
2 / BEHAVIOUR
If we stop buying rubbish, manufacturers will stop making rubbish. The economy will move where the money is. It’s that simple. This is true of all the day-to-day products to our choice of energy suppliers and EVERYTHING in-between. It’s our job to vote with our wallets. We have enormous collective power. It may not seem like the small changes we make are significant. But those small changes x many people x repetition - they really do add up. It’s a ripple effect that builds to a tsunami. And big waves like that cannot be ignored.
3 / LEGISLATION
This area warrants a whole blog of its own (coming soon). We need systematic change to sort this sh*t out. And that will only occur when new regulation and legislation prompt a major shake up of how we manufacture, use and dispose of things at scale. An obvious example is what what happened with single-use plastic bags here in the UK. Prior to the ban, UK supermarkets gave out 7.6 billion each year. Since introducing the 5p charge, this has reduced by 80%. But it’s can’t just be for consumers. Serious regulation is needed to force corporations to take responsibility - financial and otherwise - for more sustainable production AND the cleaning up their own mess. And that is going to mean governments unshackling themselves from the grubby grip of fossil-fuel lobbyists. They need to tackle the dirty business of global waste management. We must immediately stop shipping waste overseas to countries even less able to cope. So, hassle your MP. Let them know this stuff matters to you!
4 / INNOVATION
I’m only just beginning to learn about this. But there is some incredible work happening in the area of sustainability. And it can’t happen quickly enough! And we can do our bit by supporting businesses that are trailblazing production using home compostable bio-plastics (contentious, I know), sustainable, up-cycled or recycled materials (yup, even plastics). Ellen McCarther is doing incredible work in this space, supporting a shift from a linear economy (i.e. take > make > dispose) to a circular economy, which aims to design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use and regenerate natural systems.
5 / ACTIVISM
But all this alone might not be enough. Without wishing to sound like a conspiracy theorist, right now, the dark arts of lobbyists and other ‘special interests’ are at work. Fossil fuels are subsidised by our Government at a quite extraordinary level. We need to let parliament know that that is far from okay - that our children’s futures depend on the health of the planet being prioritised over and above the health of fat-cat’s wage packets. And to do that, we’re gonna have to get noisy! Sign every environmental petition you get sent, follow Greenpeace, write to your MP, hassle your local councillor about responsible waste processing in your area. And most importantly, check out these guys - Extinction Rebellion. Their call for non-violent civil disobedience might be the best shot at this we’ve got at forcing change.