The Blue Planet Effect
When we set out on our journey to reduce our use of single use plastic, there was a lot of enthusiasm around the subject.
The effect of Sir David Attenborough’s television series, Blue Planet II had galvanised a movement to find alternatives to using the likes of plastic bags from supermarkets although that is subject to other debates.
Some say that while it did raise awareness of the problem of plastic pollution, changes in people’s behaviour may not have been as marked as first thought. A study by Imperial College London and the University of Oxford in 2020 showed that while watching the documentary increased environmental awareness in a group of volunteers, this did not translate into choosing to use fewer single-use plastics.
In another article published by Science Focus in 2018, it also said that Blue Planet II had done a lot to raise awareness and there had been some positive results at a local level, but internationally, the picture was not as bright.
Effect of the pandemic
And then of course, came the coronavirus pandemic. On a recent litter collection in some of our local lanes, we picked up a number of masks that were adorning the hedgerows, and these were most likely purchased in single use plastic wrappers.
In the hospitals, where the clinical environment demands sterile dressings and instruments, it is much easier to achieve with single use wrappers being broken open to treat the many patients who have been admitted to the country’s hospitals.
Can we still have an effect?
All this is very understandable but we can all still do many things to help reduce the problems caused by single use plastics.
For example, we buy milk in bottles and have it delivered in the early hours of the morning. This makes a significant impact on how much plastic we send off for recycling each week. It does cost a little more, but we are lucky enough to be in a position to pay the extra, but of course, for others with more limited means, this may not be an option.
But there are other things we can do. Mains water in the UK is of a very high standard, so there is no need to buy bottled water, much of which is sold in plastic bottles. True, the plastic is recyclable but why not invest in a reusable bottle and just refill it each time. We enjoy cool water, so we use insulated metal bottles that will last for years.
We usually only buy loose vegetables so we use our own product bags to bring them home. The bags need an occasional wash, but they are used time and time again. We have saved on the use of countless plastic bags with this simple change of lifestyle.
We also advocate the use of a shopping bag and even a shopping trolley, just to save on the use of plastic bags.
We are lucky enough to have a weekly market that has a fruit and veg stall, and employment hours that give us the chance to use it each week, but if everyone could find just a few ways to reduce their demand for single use plastic, it would go a long way to improving the situation.
And, despite all that has happened over the last year or so, with the message about reducing the use of plastic being understandably lost in the midst of the pandemic, people are still aiming to minimise our impact on the environment.
There are reasons to be positive and there have been successes, with some supermarkets planning to use less plastic in their Easter egg packaging this year, an eco warrior has won an award for his efforts in reducing plastic use at RAF Brize Norton and Portsmouth was recently granted Plastic Free Community status for its environmental changes.
The important thing to remember is that we can all make a difference.
So, the question is, what simple changes can you make to your lifestyle and what effect can you make to the situation?