By Doro Marden.
Do you despair at how much plastic you end up throwing away? Almost everything we buy, from shampoo to shirts, comes in single-use plastic, most of which cannot be recycled.
Daniel Webb collected every piece of plastic that came into his flat during a whole year. He then sorted and categorised all 4,490 pieces (in a sports hall with a lot of help) and created an artwork out of it! By weight his plastic rubbish was just under the average for the UK (which is 34.4 kg), and over 90% of it was single-use packaging, mostly for food.
Daniel calculated that only 4% of his throw-away plastic pieces would actually be recycled in the UK ‒ yes, only 4%! Other recyclables would be exported, nowadays to South East Asia where it causes environmental problems and is not properly processed, often ending up in oceans. See more about his project and how you can join in by collecting your plastic for a week at www.everydayplastic.org
Of plastic not collected for recycling, a third ends up in landfill and two-thirds is incinerated, releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, plus toxic chemicals which put those living nearby at risk. Camden is part of the North London Waste Authority, which is planning a big new incinerator at Edmonton. Opponents argue that investment should be made in alternatives, such as waste sorting and public education. Councils will be locked into contracts delivering large amounts of waste for years to come. See more at www.stop-edmonton-incinerator.org
So what can we do as individuals?
Refill – lots of options, including a new visiting converted milk float, Fair-well, which stocks dried food plus cleaning and beauty products (www.fair-well.co.uk). Budgens at Belsize Park and Earth in Kentish Town do refill, and Queen’s Crescent Market hosts a refill stall on Thursdays and Saturdays. Let’s hope our shops catch up soon.
There are still milkmen who deliver in our area, even organic in glass bottles. Hook Dairy’s raw milk stall at the Primrose Hill Market has a refillable glass bottle option. I have started making my own kefir again, after realising how many plastic bottles I was using; yoghurt is also not difficult to make.
For cleaning materials, Mercury Stores in Chalcot Road have cardboard boxes of bicarbonate of soda and bottles of white vinegar, good old-fashioned and effective materials. There are lots of recipes for cleaning materials online. The online Ethical Superstore (www.ethicalsuperstore.com) has Humble toothbrushes made of bamboo, and interdental sticks, plus silk dental floss. (Wouldn’t it be good to be able to get these locally – Mr Lalani of Primrose Pharmacy, please note!)
Do let us have your tips and ideas for using less plastic. Menstrual product alternatives? Real nappies? If the infant Henry VIII had worn disposable nappies, they would still be in landfill. Indestructible plastic is destroying our oceans, soil and health: let’s use our consumer power to work towards becoming more plastic-free!