A Plastic Revolution

Plastic and the pollution it causes is in the news. There’s the plastic free challenge and the UK government has set aside £60 million to fight plastic waste.

I could not agree with all this more whole heartedly and have tried hard to reduce my personal use of plastic. It’s only when you take time to think about the amount of plastic that get’s thrown in the bin that you realise how bad the problem is. Just as an example I no longer buy laundry detergent in plastic bottles and have switched to powder in a cardboard box. Having said all this however, just recently I disposed of mounds and mounds of plastic, over which I had no control.

I have just had a new kitchen installed. The old one was 20 years old and was certainly showing it’s age. The majority of the materials in the new kitchen are recyclable being mostly wood products from renewable sources. Indeed the kitchen suppliers advertise their environmentally friendly credentials on this basis. All this seem laudable but nevertheless misleading because the amount of plastic packaging that comes with all the “environmentally friendly” stuff was overwhelming.

All the units where wrapped in plastic. The doors were covered in a plastic film that had to be peeled away and every cabinet came with it’s own plastic bag of screws. The hob was wrapped in enough plastic bubble wrap to choke a blue whale. By the time the kitchen was installed there were no fewer than dozen bags full of plastic waste.

The reason given for all this packaging is of course to protect the customer’s expensive purchase, but I am just not convinced. Everything in the old kitchen had to be packed away and I was tempted to purchase plastic bubble wrap for glasses and crockery. Instead of plastic however, I found a paper-based alternative. A sort of corrugated cardboard made from recycled paper that goes by several names, including Ecorap, Corrugated papercan and Cushion Paper amongst others. It was little more expensive, but in terms of the cost of a new kitchen it was trivial.

This exorbitant use plastic packaging doesn’t just apply to new kitchens, it’s everywhere you look. Every new appliance, furniture or household item is likely to be packed in either bubble wrap or contained in a plastic bag. I am therefore left with the felling that even if I reduced my own personal plastic usage to zero, it would be but a carrier bag in the ocean compared to its industrial use. Avoiding detergent in plastic bottles seems an almost pathetic effort in context of the reliance on plastic in packaging. Industry will continue to use plastic packaging because it’s cheep and convenient, until such times that environmental taxes change that attitude, and that takes government action and the will of the people!

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