Nearly 6,000 people across the UK, close to 300 in Scotland, signed up to the Plastic Free Friday pledge and tried to do without single-use plastic last Friday.  If you were buying fruit and veg at your local wholefood shop or you just stayed home all day, having a Plastic Free Friday wasn’t too hard.  But if you were having a normal kind of day you probably found it surprising how much plastic there is around us all the time.

It’s easy to carry your own water bottle rather than buying plastic bottles of stuff that probably comes out of the tap anyway.  The big coffee chains are feeling the pressure and allowing people to bring their own cup.  But try having a cup of tea on a train and you’ll find a plastic cup and lid, a plastic stirrer and those ridiculous tiny portions of milk in plastic packaging!

We have created a 10 top tips to help you reduce the amount of plastic you end up with, and we’re collecting more tips from people who are taking part in #PlasticFreeFriday, so keep watching that page for new ideas or send us in your own.

Avoiding single-use plastic is an interesting challenge, you may even develop life-long new habits because you’re thinking about it more.  But it only makes a bigger difference if people know you are doing it.  From refusing the straw offered in a café to challenging supermarkets on how they package their goods, consumer pressure can make a move organisations to action.

Power of collective action

Harnessing our power as a group is vital.  By signing up to the Plastic Free Friday pledge you are giving us power to tell retailers, producers and the government that real people want change.  And we’ll be coming back to you when the time is right to ask for your help in getting even more fundamental change.

Our work on plastics is in the context of our Fossil Free Scotland campaign.  About 90% of all plastic is made from fossil fuels and 40% of that ends up as packaging, most of that doing just one journey from shop to bin, and only a recycling bin in the minority of cases.  We’ve banned fracking in Scotland but gas from fracking in the US is still coming to Grangemouth to be turned into yet more plastic.

Public pressure has already led to change, with the Scottish Government planning to ban plastic cotton bud sticks and plastic straws.  These are small but highly symbolic moves and we’ll be supporting them when the Government consults the wider public.

In Scotland we are also going to see a Deposit and Return Scheme on drinks’ bottles and cans.  We’ve been part of the campaign to get that commitment and now we’ve got to make sure we set up a scheme that really works, so that plastic bottle recycling rockets to over 90%.

Diagram of the circular economy from WRAP
Moving to a circular economy

We are also promised a Circular Economy Act – new laws that could make a huge difference to how things are made and what happens to them at the end of their lives.  Again, we’ll be asking all those who’ve taken the Plastic Free Friday pledge to join us in calling for maximum ambition when the proposals are made public.

Please join us in combatting our addiction to plastic.  If you haven’t already, please sign the Plastic Free Friday pledge and help us change Scotland’s relationship with plastic and other waste.

 

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Richard Dixon

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1 thought on “Tackling the plastic waste mountain”

  1. Vernon Taylor says:

    My parents were from the make-do-and-mend generation and we kids inherited their dislike of waste. Back then our family of four produced enough rubbish each week to three-quarter fill a single galvanised dustbin, including the ashes and clinker from the fire.
    Today two of us fill two dustbin bags each week, one of recycling and one of landfill rubbish. By my reckoning it is a disgustingly large amount as it is roughly four times the amount per person of half a century ago, though that isn’t strictly accurate because in the old days some of the paper waste would have been burned – greasy paper would today be useless for recycling but back then was good for starting the fire. Burning such rubbish, though we didn’t know it at the time, turned it into CO2 which is infinitely preferable to burying it to decompose and produce methane, a greenhouse gas 15 to 30 times more potent depending on who wrote the report.

    Although I consider we generate a disgusting amount of waste, we are minor offenders on our estate where many wheelie bins are overflowing onto the pavements and even single occupancy bedsits are routinely producing double per person of our contribution.

    It would take a great deal of effort and inconvenience to reduce our quantity any more, though if single use plastics were removed from the equation our two bags of recycling each fortnight would probably be reduced to between half a bag and one bag…


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