Be part of the solution

Many of the reasons we find plastic so incredibly useful – it’s extremely cheap, versatile, waterproof and durable – are what also make it such an environmental hazard. When we throw it away, it doesn’t go away. Instead, it becomes plastic pollution that can alter habitats and natural processes, directly affecting people’s livelihoods and food production.

There is an answer and it’s not recycling.

The Big Plastic Count survey by Greenpeace and fellow NGO, Everyday Plastic, in May 2022 revealed that UK households chuck out nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic every year. Only 12% of the single-use plastic we bring into our homes is properly recycled in the UK, with 17% being exported abroad, 25% sent to landfill and 46% incinerated. That’s because a good two thirds of it is soft, flimsy, low-grade plastic packaging, very little of which is recyclable.

Instead, it will take concerted community action to stem the tide of plastic and move to reduced and sustainable packaging. Plastic Free Communities (PFC) is just such a grassroots campaign, set up by Surfers Against Sewage. Their vision is to connect and empower communities to free our homes, streets, green spaces, rivers and beaches of avoidable, throwaway plastic, and to send a powerful message to the businesses who continue to proliferate its use.

Like the PFC team in Mold, Wales, you could stage a Mass Unwrap in your community, and link with other communities to encourage a local Mass Unwrap movement. At one event in Mold they collected a two-metre-high cage of packaging, after encouraging local shoppers, town and county councillors, local churches and schools to join in.

Shops that minimise the environmental impact of our consumer habits are also springing up across Britain. Over the past two years, well over 100 Zero Waste Shops have opened for business. Many are in environmental hotspots such as Brighton, Bath, Bristol, Stroud and north-east London, but they’re opening in plenty of other areas too.

Is your community plastic free? Is there a Zero Waste Shop near you? If not, could you spearhead a movement locally or set one up, to help reduce plastic consumption and get rid of single use plastic for good?