It’s challenging not to feel bad about the cost of plastic on our planet.
But are we, as customers, truly in control when the majority of reasonably priced goods come in plastic packaging?
In a nationwide inquiry investigating the use and recycling of plastics, over 100,000 people in the UK meticulously counted their household plastic garbage for one week in May. The Big Plastic Count was organized by the groups Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic.
How did they fare, and what did they learn about their reliance on a substance that has permeated our daily lives?
During their week of counting, Jules Birkby, 41, and her family of four discarded 124 pieces of plastic. For her daughter Emmy’s sixth birthday, she claims the packaging in party bags and sticker packets was the most irritating.
She was “startled” by how much plastic they used because she had assumed her household used relatively little plastic. Leeds-based artist Jules says, “It’s the hidden stuff that isn’t biodegradable – like pizza wrappers – that gets you.”
Each sticker sheet for the party bags was separately wrapped in a non-recyclable cellophane bag before being bundled together in a larger bag, according to the customer.
Though Jules claims she has a very difficult time as a consumer making the proper decisions, her children are really concerned about safeguarding the environment.
“We are only capable of so much. The maker is in control of it. It’s all such a juggling act.”
The cucumber wrapping bothered Xavier Taylor, a 25-year-old scheduler from Portishead in southwest England who is seeking to be a firefighter, the most out of the 70 pieces of plastic he counted.
He claims that buying fruit and vegetables without using plastic is simple for his family members who live abroad.
Additionally, he would want to see more locally grown fruit sold in stores directly by farmers, as this would lessen the need for wasteful packing when moving items over large distances.
He continues, “I’m getting increasingly irritated that stores sell so much plastic.
He claims that the cost of plastic-free alternatives would be prohibitive even if he could find them.
“Everything’s getting more expensive, but goods that are healthier for the environment cost a lot more,” he claims.
With her husband Adrian, 27-year-old Emily Varley identified 44 plastic items. “It’s the fruit and vegetable packing that really gets to me,” she adds.
“Why do apples and peppers need to be packaged in plastic? Why is it more expensive when they are loose, “Asks Bedfordshire business analyst Emily?
She makes an effort to replace plastic packaging with eco-friendly alternatives like laundry tablets, but she feels that completely giving up plastic is only for “those with more money and time.”
She questions, “Why is spaghetti from a refill shop five times more expensive?”
She asserts that the government, brands, and supermarkets must set the example. “The majority of people care about it and would modify what they buy, but they lack the choice.”
What the authorities and stores claim:
- The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told BBC News that they have restricted the use of plastic straws and banned plastic-stemmed cotton buds.
- The government is also introducing a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles – consumers pay a small deposit which they get back when the plastic is returned.
- It is also consulting on banning single-use plastic plates, cutlery, and balloon sticks.
- On behalf of supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium told BBC News that the industry is investing in re-use and refill options “with the aim to become mainstream in the next five years”.
- The BRS also says that many supermarkets are working with suppliers to “eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging”.
“Simply put, I didn’t believe we used that much plastic. It’s enlightening “says Lynda Jones, 71, who calculated the amount of plastic she and her husband consumed. They used 28 coffee pods among the 64 plastic things they used.
Due to their inability to leave the house due to their respective disabilities, the Worcestershire couple has their groceries delivered. That implies that she is unable to select produce that is not packaged, such as loose fruit and vegetables.
“I hate plastic more than anything else. There is no requirement to package everything “Explained Lynda.
She asserts that the industry doesn’t appear to be on the same page when it comes to recycling, noting that one company may produce recyclable packaging for a product while a competitor does not for the same product.
“Things are progressively changing,” she asserts. But much more ought to have been done to address this issue by now, in 2022.