The post was first published on Business Green.
In December 2017, Blue Planet II shocked the world with disturbing images of plastic pollution: albatrosses feeding their chicks plastic bags, plankton mistaking microplastic for food and young dolphins potentially killed by plastic toxins. In the intervening two years, plastic has rarely left the headlines. Read more
This blog was first posted on Business Green.
We all want to do the right thing when it comes to avoiding unnecessary packaging, but when different materials have different impacts, it can be hard to choose what sort of container has the best environmental credentials. This can be as true for retailers and producers – the people putting material on the shelf – as it is for the consumer choosing what to buy. Which are better, for instance, lightweight plastic bottles that damage the marine environment when mismanaged or high carbon but highly recyclable glass bottles? What about relatively low carbon cartons that are difficult to recycle, compared to aluminium cans that create toxic waste in production but can then be recycled over and over again? Read more
Last week, in one of her first announcements as Environment Secretary, Theresa Villiers was able to share the good news that the country is breaking its single use plastic bag habit. Use of such carrier bags from large supermarkets has dropped by 90 per cent, thanks to the 5p charge brought in by the government in 2015. The precipitous fall, Villiers said, is “a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society”. But are the reports of the death of the throwaway society premature? Read more
The first episode of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani’s War on Plastic documentary detailed the extent of our use of plastic and the devastating impacts when waste from the west – all too frequently – winds up in uncontrolled dumpsites in places like Malaysia, devastating local communities and environments alike.
This shows the shocking failure of the current system and, unsurprisingly, the audience was alarmed and up in arms following their rallying call to fight a war against plastic. But I detected a worrying trend in the weapon of choice that most viewers instinctively reached for: substitution. Read more
This blog was first posted in Business Green.
A year ago this month, China closed its doors to ‘foreign garbage’. Plenty of organisations, including Green Alliance, predicted this would cause ‘recycling chaos’. Read more
As someone who’s spent more than a decade commenting on the UK’s approach to resources and waste, I’ve often felt at least a bit of frustration and occasionally even substantial dismay with it. Read more
Environmentalists have long grappled with problems of ‘climate fatigue’ and the paralysis that can result from the threat of impending disaster, especially if that disaster is approaching slowly, “like a tidal wave of treacle”, as I’ve heard it described. Read more
Earlier this week, the climate minister, Claire Perry, asked the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to investigate a pathway for the UK to become a net zero emissions economy. This followed the publication of a major International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warning that the world must make deep cuts in carbon emissions. These, the scientists say, are necessary to keep warming below 1.5 degrees and ensure the planet remains inhabitable for future generations. For this to be possible, it’s clear that the UK’s, and the rest of the world’s, pathway to these deep cuts has to include resource efficiency. Read more
“As petroleum came to the relief of the whale,” said an 1878 promotional pamphlet for the world’s first industrial plastic, “so has celluloid given the elephant, the tortoise, and the coral insect a respite in their native haunts, and it will no longer be necessary to ransack the earth in pursuit of substances which are constantly growing scarcer.” Read more
Plastic has been in the press a lot lately for the damage it has been causing to the world’s oceans, but it might come as a surprise that its invention is intricately linked to an effort to avoid an environmental disaster.