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
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
“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
UK recycling has a problem. Over the years, we have become reliant on the Chinese market to take our low quality recycling. But China doesn’t want our waste anymore. In fact, it says it no longer wants any “foreign garbage”, as shipments of low quality material from countries like the UK have “polluted China’s environment seriously.” Read more
Hatred is quite a strong emotion to feel for inanimate evidence notes intended to show that a company has paid towards recycling its packaging, but bear with me and I’ll explain what’s got me so wound up.
In our world of instant gratification, plastic has proved incredibly useful, allowing food and drink to be conveniently packaged and transported for consumption on the go, immediately satisfying our most basic of human needs. Unfortunately, if it is not handled correctly after its brief use, plastic can cause serious environmental problems, as hauntingly documented by Blue Planet II. People are rightly concerned about the pollution accumulating in our seas, and they want an immediate solution.
This article was originally published in Business Green.
If I were the type to shout at my radio, I would have spewed righteous vitriol at the Today programme last Thursday morning. Ahead of the launch of the government’s long awaited 25 Year Plan for the Environment, Environment Secretary Michael Gove was interviewed by Nick Robinson about his ‘big vision’ for dealing with the large environmental challenges that lie ahead. Introducing the segment, Robinson asserted: “The question any politician has to face in this field is this: on the one hand, people say they want less plastic and they cheer on David Attenborough, but do they want to pay 25p more for their cup of coffee?”
After years of waiting, we finally have it: this morning, Theresa May launched her government’s 25 year plan for the environment. By far the most talked about aspect of the long awaited and wide ranging strategy is the prime minister’s promise to “demonstrate global leadership” by addressing needlessly produced plastic. This will be achieved, she vowed, through action “at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic”. Bold words indeed.