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Monday, 3 September 2018

Zero Waste Week - 2018 - Day One

This year's Zero Waste Week is, of course:

 all about plastic!

I wrote earlier in the year about the Blue Planet effect and what a hot topic it has become. Thank you to the BBC and to the wonderful Sir David Attenborough for making plastic pollution such a hot topic.

Campaigns such as The Last Straw and Recycle Now's Plastic Planet fill me with hope that soon the life choices I make won't seem weird, but will just become normal life, for most people. Back in July 2014 I first went to my local butchers with my reusable plastic tubs and talked to them about Plastic Free July and said that I was planning to try to cut out single use plastic for a whole year.  They were very supportive and I've been taking my reusable tubs there ever since. Just from that small decision, I've started a trend.  A few months ago, I they told me I was one of four families now doing the same thing. Then a few weeks ago, I found out that the four has grown to five.  Who will be number six, I wonder?

But why do this?  What's the point of it all and does it help?  When I wrote my first book, 101 Ways to  Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, it was partly a reaction to feeling that every time I looked for a sustainable alternative to what I was doing or buying, it seemed to cost me more.  Take cotton buds, for example, it is not something I use very often, but I was really annoyed to find that a compostable cotton bud was more than twice the price of a plastic version. Composting toilet compared to water based system - beyond expensive..beyond my reach at the time. A growing sense of despair at finding that our growing convenience consumer lifestyles were 'costing the earth', yet the green alternative was 'costing the earth' in a different way, led me to take a look at what I could do for free in order to reduce the impact my family has on this planet. And the big thing was, I wanted to know if it made a difference. And so, I started to take a look at the maths and science behind various ways of saving resources and that became the focus of my book.

Today, we've become quite adept at taking our own bags to the supermarket. When I wrote my book, back in 2012, Wales had already introduced a 5p tax on single use carrier bags, but England was yet to follow suit. However, some shops had already introduced a 5p charge on plastic bags. This enabled them to monitor the number of bags given out and compare that to the number of bags given out before the charge. Looking back at my book today, I see that Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury's were among the supermarkets to be monitoring the reduction in plastic bags and willing to share their figures. I found evidence that the combined carbon footprint saving was 9356 tonnes - the equivalent to taking 1835 cars off the road.

A recent DEFRA report tells us that over 6 billion fewer bags were given out in the year from April 2016 to April 2017, i.e. since the introduction of the tax. According to the research I did in my book, each bag has a saving of 10g of carbon dioxide equivalence (the measurement for carbon footprint) so that would mean an equivalent saving of 60 million tonnes of CO2. I make that the equivalent of over 11 million cars being taken off the road.

Small change, enormous difference. 

The Blue Planet programme was very good at highlighting the other perspective ... the 'what if we don't do the right thing?'

I want to reduce my use of resources all round, but I find I particularly want to reduce single-use plastic, because this is the resource I find is often used unnecessarily, and it forms the rubbish I see mostly littering the countryside I live in. Further, it is the rubbish that when discarded in the wrong way, travels most easily and causes the most damage, it seems.

I think this is now the fifth year that I've joined in with Zero Waste Week, and blogged about what I've learnt and the changes I've managed to make. I know there are some interesting things that are in store for us, and although I'm already well on my way with the Zero Waste Path, there's still a good way to travel and it is easier to journey with like minded people travelling in the same direction.

I want to find at least one more things that I can do to reduce my consumption of single-use plastic.  I've got my non-recyclable waste down to less than a bin full per year, I've reduced my recycling enormously through small lifestyle changes and reuse, yet I still see plastic all over my house. So I know there's still something out there for me. What will it be?

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