Following a fact-finding evening hosted by West Cornwall Green Party last week, a list of proposals – some obvious and others more surprising – has been prepared.
“You’ve got a refillable water flask and coffee cup, you’ve stopped using carrier bags and have started buying loose fruit and veg. What next?” asks Rachel Yates, community leader of Plastic Free Penzance.
Well, plenty. Rachel explains that plastic-conscious consumers can start with the obvious, such as avoiding carrier bags, plastic bottles and disposable cups. But for those who want to do more –why not swap to traditionally-packaged products for personal care and housework? Or go back to basics, such as bicarbonate of soda. You can replace the disposable biro with a pencil or fountain pen. And remember that even teabags contain plastic – so invest in a tea strainer and a box of loose leaves. Remember that cardboard cartons for juices and milks have a plastic liner and are currently non-recyclable.
Above all, the message is: think before you buy at all – and when you do buy – keep it local. Avoid the supermarkets, with their aisles of plastic packaging. Instead, take your tins, jars and bags and get them filled up at a local store.
At the evening event Delia Webb, joint coordinator of Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition, presented a large collection of ‘rescued plastics’. The table-filling array went well beyond balloons, disposable cups and drinking straws, and included toothbrushes, cigarette lighters – and even the inner tubes of fireworks and gun cartridges. All of these had been found during recent beach cleans. Delia reported that over a three month period, local groups had picked up more than 66,000 bottle tops from Cornwall’s beaches. And the bottle tops, strung together, created a chain over a kilometre long. ‘We can carry on picking up plastic for ever’, said Delia, but we need to find a way of stopping it getting it into the sea in the first place. There is no Planet B. We only have one Earth.’
Delia also identified new pollutants. These include ‘nurdles’ – small component parts, lost during transportation to manufacturers. Delia revealed that up to 800 containers fall off cargo ships every year, and that their contents then pollute the seas. Microplastic beads , used in sewage filtration treatment, are also escaping into the oceans – to be ingested by marine life, and then by human consumers.
Rachel gave a summary of the campaign’s achievements including the recruitment of local schools and businesses into the war against plastics. Her workshop then sought suggestions for ‘going plastic free’ in the light of Delia’s collection of culprits – and here is the full list of contributors’ ideas for upping your Plastic Free game:
- switch to shampoo and conditioner bars
- switch to deodorant bars, crystal deodorants or try making your own! There are plenty of recipes online
- make white vinegar your best friend. It can be used as a fabric conditioner, laundry brightener, stain remover and powerful household cleaner to name a few. Add essential oils to take the edge off the smell
- switch to loose tea and coffee. Look for local tea and coffee shops who sell by weight. use a bamboo toothbrush
- ditch biros and use a pencil more often. When you need to use a pen pick a fountain pen or refillable roller ball. Not perfect – but still less plastic!
- try a ‘moon cup’ or washable sanitary products. There are a host of options and products. Research them online and in local health stores, give them a go and find the option that works best for you
- use tiffin tins for leftovers and lunches. Challenge take away outlets by asking them to fill them rather than use single use containers
- swap cling film and foil for reusable wax food wraps
- shop local! Our local businesses are able to make change quicker and are more likely to cater to customers requests. Use the local grocer, butcher, baker etc and see your plastic footprint plummet!
Charmian Larke, of the Anti -Incinerator Campaigner, gave a talk on what happens to plastic in Cornwall. Despite recent improvements, still only 25% is recycled. The rest goes to the incinerator in general waste. Another amazing fact? 45% of general waste is food. So does Cornwall Council need a compostable waste collection? And is there potential for local composters in towns such as Penzance.
Cornwall Council is currently undertaking a public consultation of its waste management strategy, and Charmian urges everyone to read the consultation document and complete the survey. The Council wants to go to weekly recycling collection with general, black bag collections taking place every two weeks.
The link to the survey is: