Time to take responsibility and put beautiful planet first
Ella Walker considers all the plastic she uses in a month, and is horrified at the mountain that appears
We're becoming increasingly aware of humanity's responsibility to stop suffocating the planet with plastic. And between Blue Planet II, 5p supermarket bags, and the proposed (if problematic) plastic straw ban, it feels like some kind of headway is finally being made.
But then, you look in the kitchen bin and see packets and packets of transparent film all headed straight for landfill.
I decided to see what a month's worth of my single-use and non-recyclable plastics would actually look like.
Surely it wouldn't be too bad? After all, I'm already on the low end of the plastic consumption spectrum. I make tin foil wrapped packed lunches, use beeswax food covers and the roll of clingfilm in my kitchen drawer has been there a VERY long time and won't be renewed.
But, a week in, I was feeling despondent, and by the end of the month, absolutely livid. This is what I gleaned along the way...
Some things you just can't find plastic-free alternatives for
Lettuce, peas and corn (frozen things are particularly difficult, although fish fingers and waffles do come in cardboard boxes), packets of pasta, body wash, toilet roll and toothpaste, for instance. We're often told to buy in bulk when it comes to items that, by necessity, come in plastic, but you can't buy giant tubes of toothpaste that'll last a year, can you?
There are hidden bits of plastic everywhere
I did actually find a pasta brand that opted for paper bags, but even so, they'd ruined things by inserting a plastic panel so you could see the rigatoni shapes inside, utterly defeating the point.
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Then, you're happily shredding an egg box into the compost only to discover the label wasn't printed but stuck on. You eschew the multipack of apples for loose ones, and then find a sticker on each (more plastic!).
Even when you try to do the right thing, you're foiled - and it's even worse when you think something actually is foil (recyclable) and turns out to be foil fringed with plastic (looking at you Lindt chocolate wrappers). It's like you're constantly being set up to fail - and don't get me started on yoghurt: the pot's recyclable but the lid's not?
Our world is not currently set up to make better choices easy
Arguably, I could go to a farm where they produce their yoghurt and milk direct from the animals and store it only in glass.
Or I could magic back into existence milkmen in my area. I could, in theory, order all my meat from the butcher, and supply them with my own Tupperware for transporting the bacon, and in a world where I had the skills and the space, I could grow all my own fruit and veg to be collected in wicker baskets and wrapped in cloth.
Instead, we have plastic-reliant supermarkets everywhere, just desperate to fill our cupboards swiftly and cheaply, while shopping locally via butchers, grocers and farm shops is difficult when you work full time, and are often - understandably - more expensive.
The model is all wrong.
Shopping begins to make you feel incredibly stressed
It's relentless, shocking and maddening to watch the plastic you use build up until it's bursting at the seams of a (plastic!) bin liner.
Then my mind turns to all the plastic we're constantly surrounded by, even if it's not single-use - phones, pens, chargers, the clasp on your bike helmet, your Groot-shaped keyring, your lip balm container, the polyester in your jumper, the chair you're sitting on, the handle of the knife you're chopping with... it's endless.
You start making deals with yourself
I find myself trying to justify not putting the latest empty Lurpak tub in my collection, because my boyfriend actually finished it off.
But the guilt catches me up - I'm culpable, I put that butter on my toast too.
In the end, the only reasonable way out, in many cases, is to just stop buying things.
Worn down by salad bags, sushi packets and milk cartons, it's clear that the only deal we should be making is to find a way out of this synthetic hell and eliminate single-use plastics, fast.