Is plastic free a dream or a nightmare?
As my eldest child prepares us for a march on climate change she wants us all to attend this Friday I find myself in the midst of a plastic crisis. I love the idea that the world will rid itself of disposable plastic overnight but the honest truth of the matter is that until the big corporations change (I’m looking at you Amazon and every big supermarket chain in the world!) the humble consumer can only do so much. I am, in truth, a bit disheartened with my little patch of battlefield in this particular war and I’m considering a retreat. Now that’s not to say that I will start buying everything wrapped in dozens of bits of plastic. Quite the contrary. I still don’t want my vegetables wrapped in plastic and still use soap and shampoo bars and tablet toothpaste and have found various companies who package their goods in sugarcane plastic. I like these changes. What I’m saying is that I’m questioning my orders from the top. That the generals may have lost sight of the final goal but have no idea how to get there other than shouting at everyone else and making them feel inferior that they haven’t got there yet.
“Why did you buy that plastic bottle from a vending machine, Captain?”
“Because it was 40°C Sir, and I wanted my kids to stay hydrated.”
“But Captain, did you not have your refillable water bottles with you?”
“I did indeed, Sir and we use them everyday. In fact Sir, I think you’ll find, we have owned two of those bottles for over 10 years, long before it became fashionable or the right thing to do.”
“No need to get defensive, Captain. I just wondered why, in the face of easy rehydration from your water bottles, you chose to buy a drink wrapped in plastic?”
“Well, Sir, the water was warm by this point despite ice being added and a thermal covering. Also, they were more than half drunk already and when it’s 40°C and your kids are still being active and it’s a day out you just want them to fucking drink alright! And, General, I think you’ll find, my drink was a can which is just as widely recycled as the bottles are these days AND we always fucking recycle even if that means we carry our rubbish around with us all day and take it home. So stop judging me on a couple of drinks that were more important than sunstroke!”
“Captain are you feeling ok?”
“No Sir! I’m feeling judged every single time I buy anything that has the smallest hint of plastic in it despite the fact that as a family of five we recycle every single morsel of every single item as much as our prefecture allows. Here that’s a lot. Our recycling bins are bursting. I always use my own carrier bags for shopping, long before Tim Minchin sang about it. I no longer buy cling film and now use tupperware or a plate on top of a bowl instead. I spend more money on my toothpaste so I can take the bottle back to the store to be washed and reused for someone else’s overpriced toothpaste, I proffer my bamboo coffee cup when I fancy a mocha like only a coffee shop makes it and often have a debate (in a language I don’t speak) about what size coffee said bamboo cup contains, I stop my children buying the shampoo they want because it’s in a plastic bottle, I go out of my way to buy groceries that are unwrapped even though it’s strains my budget because for some unfathomable reason the cheap stuff gets wrapped, I avoided buying my kids sweets or ice creams due to plastic. And I reused everything I possibly can!
But that’s not enough. The fact that my husband and I, in the 16 years we’ve lived together, have composted where possible, always used environmentally-friendly laundry and cleaning products, have always used washable dishcloths, have always had days of not using the car and currently don’t use one at all, have had reusable water bottle for years, have recycled for years, have used canvas bags for our shopping for years, have eaten more than two meals without meat a week for ....well since before we lived together because I was vegetarian then, have always picked up our litter and even other people’s, left no trace at festivals, don’t even let our kids snap branches off trees, we used cloth nappies for our kids and when using disposable ones for holidays we spent more than we could afford on the environmentally friendly ones instead. And that, Sir, is why I’m dissatisfied. Because none of that seems to matter. The fact that my kids are joining environmentalist movements within their school or running after plastic bags on the streets to dispose of them properly means nothing. Because I’ve dared to suggest that plastic-free is a dream and may be achievable one day but for us in this country with me battling two chronic illnesses that is not today. I am bored of being made to feel guilty when I have been more environmentally minded than a lot of my peers for a very long time. Sustainable plastic that you resuse time and time and time again is not something to be sneered at but the way plastic should be used. I think some people, especially those who belittle others on social media forums, have lost sight of what’s important. Education of the masses of how to dispose of our rubbish properly and how to create less - that is he goal. We are teaching our children to care for their world and they do, oh so much. That’s 3 more people for the next generation who will continue this fight. Ok so it would have been more environmentally friendly to stop after 2 children but aren’t 3 children who will continue the fight better than 3 who will do nothing and not care? I’m feeling sorry for myself, Sir and disheartened. Because I fight the wave of disposable plastic every day and I shop in an environmentally friendly way and I have done for a lot longer than most who have now jumped on the bandwagon because it’s the done thing. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to train new recruits of all ages as long as they don’t teach me to suck eggs. Sometimes, Sir, it feels like this fight is against our own side.”
“I know Captain. I may have spoken too harshly earlier. I see you are a veteran in this field. Perhaps a promotion is in order?”
“No thanks, General. I’m happy with the troops. I shall continue my fight down here amongst the lower ranks and try to inspire the next generation (who have more energy than me) to rise to the top.”
“Very good, Captain. I’m glad to hear it. You’re a real trooper. Now to business. There are some new browncoats coming in this week. Think you can find a place for them in the ranks of the F&J brigade?”
“Of course, Sir”
“Excellent!!! Now about this climate change march your daughter is taking your family along to......”