Seconds in our hands: Centuries in our lands

Plastic waste is now a bandwagon. Blue Planet 2, the UN meeting on Oceans and the decision by the Chinese not to import UK recycling have put it firmly in our minds – this week, the BBC website had over 40 articles on plastic waste in two months alone.

And it’s January – I have heard a number of people making resolutions about reducing plastic, so it’s a good time for the bandwagon to take root. There are lots of readily available ideas for changing personal buying habits.i

But if we are serious about it, I dont think acting individually is enough: We must amplify our actions. Bandwagons matter. In the delicate dance of political feasibility, the fine balance between competitive edge and company value statement, the awareness of a growing opinion can help tip the scales. Rather than a viscious cycle of, “I would like to act, but…”, vocal consumers and voters can help promote a virtuous circle, encourage (literally give courage), those who are willing to lead. We want our leaders – political, business, public servants, to act where they can in the common good, rather than their institutional interest. But that means consideration of their personal interest, convenience, reputation etc might take a hit. If we expect them to run that risk, perhaps we should also be prepared to sacrifice a little of our convenience, money or time to get the change we want. Signing petitions is essential to prove vocal opinion. It takes seconds: For example,

But here’s some other ideas for amplifying actions too:

  1. Review products or services when asked. Companies publicise what you say. Your judgement on ‘Value for money’ entirely depends on what you value. It doesn’t just have to be quality and convenience. Having spent years deleting such emails, I now review vegetables, toothpaste, hotels, anything I can when I have time.
  2. Join or create bandwagons online with similar consumers about companies you use. Especially companies targetting a particular market – childrens products, specialist foods etc.
  3. Tweet your views to customer services for companies you use. Consumers have little real choice on packaging. Protesting on social media is available to all.
  4. We are all part of wider organisations – spot opportunities to change something at their events eg. craft materials for school events, initiatives at work to cut plastic. Support or initiate them where you can.

Good luck – and watch this space!




The Plastic Age – Can we bear it?

Not quite 42 is a blog about life, the universe and everything, without claiming to be the answer. It is a home for a collection of observations and reflections (some poems) on issues that I feel to be important and want to explore in different ways.  This first post relates to the current growing awareness of plastic waste and the need to take action

Inspired by visiting museums of antiquity with my six year old in Athens, and in particular marvelling at the skill and length of time that must have gone into making the jewellery, I wonder what our age will reveal:

“Its 2500. Al, aged 7, and her mother are visiting a museum in Western Europe. They have reached the room covering 1950 to 2050, called The Plastic Age. Al is excited. Its so brightly coloured, even after all this time, and in her daily life she doesnt come across plastic any more. They start looking at the shoes and bags. Al tries on the plastic flip flops, so easy to break, yet still around centuries later but decides her bamboo and raffia ones are more comfy. Then they look at the kitchen exhibit. Al recognises some of the devices, but marvels at the fact they were continually thrown away and replaced, not fixed. ” Mum, there must have been loads of people without jobs, if the factories made the mixers and no one ever fixed them.” Al’s Mum is distracted. “mmm”. Then she says “Al, do you know what this means?” It’s a label on a set of white cutlery “Dis….pose…a…bull”, Al sounds out. “No idea. I think its something to do with how long you use things. It must mean they last forever because there are loads here”.

Then she turns to the childrens exhibit. She needs to look at this properly because their school project is on how families have changed. “Wow! My teacher was right. She said The Plastic Age was also when ‘parenting’ became a real obsession. They must have nearly worshipped their childrens artwork and treasured everything. Why else would pre schoolers use stuff that would last for centuries.” “Seriously?” Her mum is incredulous. She leans over and reads “Glitter craft foam stickers pre cut shapes.” Then she laughs. ” Darling, I couldnt adore your potato prints more. When you do something thats worth lasting generations, I will get you some oil paints. How’s that?”