How many times in a day do you come into contact with plastic? My guess is that you don’t even do it consciously but it would likely start first thing in the morning when shampoo, shower gel and even toothpaste are squeezed from plastic containers. It is likely, nowadays, that your milk is in a plastic bottle and you may even have a coffee machine which requires plastic sachets of your espresso, latte or cappuccino. Before you leave the house, you may wash the dishes with liquid from another plastic bottle. During the day, you may drink water or cold drinks from plastic.... and on and on and on. Years ago, we recycled without thinking about it much. Glass was much more prevalent and milk and pop bottles were returned in order to retrieve a deposit. And we used to use excess jars for keeping home-made jams and the like.
Today’s consumer society is much more geared towards ‘use it once and chuck it away.’ This has terrible consequences for the environment. We are now producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use. Most worryingly, more than eight million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. In 2016, a study by academics at Plymouth University reported that plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that by eating these fish, we are now likely to be consuming the very plastic we have been throwing away.
It has to be said that Amber Valley Borough Council has a very proactive stance towards recycling. As you may know, every household (where possible), is issued with a grey bin and glass caddy. Inside the grey bin residents can recycle: paper, plastic, cans and cardboard. The glass caddy is provided to recycle glass bottles and jars and can either be placed inside the recycling bin or left by the side of the grey bin for collection. Those properties that are unable to have a recycling bin due to property location or the layout of the property, will be issued instead with green re-usable bags. My advice would be to take advantage of the facilities the council provides.
In October 2015, the Government introduced a law requiring large shops in England to charge 5p for all single-use plastic carrier bags. At the time it was controversial but something had to be done. In 2014, over 7.6 billion single-use plastic bags were given to customers by major supermarkets in England. That’s something like 140 bags per person, the equivalent of about 61,000 tonnes in total. Since legislation was introduced, the number of bags used has gone down by more than 80 percent in England. Over the next decade, it is anticipated that the measure will save £60 million in litter clean-up costs alone.
I have been lobbying the Secretary of State about bringing in deposits on plastic bottles to save our oceans. Meanwhile, it is time for all of us to take the next step and move away from the throw-away plastic culture. We need to think about the containers of all of our products and make the effort to recycle them after their contents have been used. If we do not we are simply behaving selfishly. Our laziness would be creating problems for future generations. We owe it to them to consider the impact of every single purchase and every single time we fill our bins.