I’m fairly certain that anyone who hasn’t been asleep for the best few years will be well aware that the world has a plastic problem. The wonder invention of the 20th century is having some serious environmental repercussions across the globe, from islands of floating rubbish, to wildlife dying after being trapped in or accidentally consuming the plastic waste that we have left behind. It’s a huge issue and something definitely needs to be done about it. But I also have a few issues with the current plastic-free initiatives we have.
Recently I’ve tried to reduce the amount of plastic that I use, and I’ve noticed a few different things that have frustrated me. One of the biggest issues with going completely plastic-free that I’ve found is the cost and the accessibility. I’ve switched to solid shampoo, conditioner, and soap to try and reduce the amount of plastic that I use. It sounds like it should be a fairly simple change, but it turns out it’s a little harder than it sounds.
First is finding somewhere that sells solid cosmetic products, that don’t come wrapped in plastic, because that kind of defeats the point. It’s not something that you can get in your usual supermarkets (though if anyone knows a supermarket that does that, please let me know), so you end up having to go to some kind of boutique store instead. They’re usually great places with a load of amazing smelling products, and cheery helpful staff on hand with a ton of advice. They also like to charge a pretty penny.
It’s a similar with a lot of other plastic-free alternatives to everyday household objects. Bamboo toothbrushes are another great example. So far I’ve only seen them online and they tend to be a little more expensive than their traditional counterparts. It’s the same story with the high-quality bamboo or ceramic reusable coffee cups, they tend to be in excess of £10. I did manage to pick one up in Starbucks for £1, but it’s not insulated, and it is still made of plastic. But I guess it’s better than getting a takeaway cup every day right?
A lot of plastic-free alternatives are expensive, and hard to get hold of and, bringing me on to my second main point, they’re reliant on the individual consumer rather from coming form the corporations themselves. The 5p carrier bag charge, the extra 5p charge some coffee shops charge when you use a takeout, the proposed ban on plastic straws. The people that bear the impact of this are the consumers, not the corporations (except maybe the straw ones, though I’m sure companies that make straws don’t only make straws).
You can have all the reusable shopping bags you want, but you go into a supermarket and all your vegetables come in plastic packaging. Even if you buy your veggies loose, you’re still given a plastic bag to put them in, not paper. Would it not save the supermarkets money, and save a lot of food waste (another major issue, but not one for today), if supermarkets left all their veggies loose in wooden crates and provided paper bags?
There are places that do sell food packaging free, and of course, it is possible to grow your own vegetables. But the thing is, the places that sell things entirely plastic free tend to add a nice little price tag, most likely because they’re small producers and they have to, and growing your own veg takes time, space, and skill. Not everyone is able to do that, and in all honesty I don’t think that should be put on the consumer. Supermarkets should be doing more.
It’s the same with the proposed ban on plastic straws. Yes we should reduce the amount we use, but there are people who actually genuinely need them and currently their isn’t a viable alternative. (There are corn starch plastics, but they’re not as environmentally friendly as they seem at first glance. They need composting, not recycling, and if they don’t go to an industrial composting plant they can still take a very long time to biodegrade).
Plus, we make such a big deal out of plastic straws, but in reality they make up less than 0.03% of all plastic waste in the ocean, which is pretty insignificant when it compares to the 43% that comes form fishing waste. Paper straws are great and we definitely should be encouraging them, but I was talking to a woman who works in a bar and those paper straws they get? Yeah, they come in plastic boxes.
My issue isn’t with plastic free. It’s something we need to work towards. My issue is that it’s individuals being asked to make the change on their own, rather than corporations stepping up to the plate and doing their bit to help. Maybe it’s time for things to start happening from the top down.
I am however, still going to get pissed off when my step-brother brings his bin bag full of empty bottled water bottles downstairs when we have two fully working taps, many perfectly good glasses, and even a couple of spare reusable water bottles.
I mean, we still all have to do our bit to save the turtles right?