At risk of this column turning into Cannard’s Plastic Watch, the lightweight wonder material of modern times has yet again, this month, been at the forefront of national and local action. The prediction that 2018 would be the year of promises continues to ring true.
Network Rail has announced that it will be installing water fountains at its 17 major UK train stations, including Waterloo, Birmingham and Glasgow.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has published the first plans for bottle refill facilities and fountains to be rolled out this summer across the capital’s public spaces and shopping areas such as Oxford Street.
The Church of England set a challenge to encourage parishioners to give up plastic for Lent, which in turn has seen 41 MPs inspired into action, including Matt Hancock and Jo Churchill.
And back in Westminster, MPs have also been putting pressure on the Houses of Parliament to reduce its plastic footprint.
Even Bury St Edmunds market is on board with its launch of reusable coffee cups, encouraging shoppers to switch from throwaway cups to reduce waste and save money.
Indeed, the desire to reduce our country’s plastic footprint continues to dominate the headlines. Public interest has been building rapidly, as has the interest from national media.
Take ITV’s Tonight Show for instance, which recently featured a documentary called Plastic: Can You Live Without It?
This is the third time I have worked with the Tonight team, having become their go-to Bin Doctor since 2013. Together we set the Hatton family in Leeds the challenge of reducing their plastic waste over the course of a week.
The Hattons knew it would be difficult but they were determined. Committing extra time to planning and added creativity, it became clear that they would give it their best.
With the camera following their shopping progress, of how they switched products, bought things loose and placed produce in their own tubs, at the end of the week they had such a great story to tell, revealing only a handful of plastic remnants to throw in their bin – a stark contrast to the two bags of plastic at the start of the challenge.
The Hattons’ effort and results were incredible, so much so that their story captured the interest of the Lorraine show, providing the perfect opportunity for us to share some key tips under the spotlight of live TV.
So, what do I predict next?
Keep your eyes peeled for louder calls for Deposit Return Schemes (DRS). As featured in the Tonight programme, a bottle recycling deposit scheme is being rolled out in Scotland, which has already demonstrated success in other countries, with recycling rates in excess of 95 per cent.
While consumer demand increases for plastic-free aisles in supermarkets, I can see more independent refill stores following in the footsteps of Unpackaged in London and the Zero Waste Shop in Totnes. Maybe not a prediction as such, more-so wishful thinking, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one of our supermarket chains also dipped their toes in some plastic-free water in response.
And on the subject of water, with cities like London rolling out water fountains and refill stations, I expect towns will start following their lead.
Finally, my own recycling pile will shrink as we make an extra effort at home – ditching supermarket weigh bags for reusable ones, switching to unpackaged shampoo bars and wherever possible avoiding black plastic, which has now become notorious for being difficult to recycle. At least if we fall foul of the latter, Suffolk’s recycling service will still work hard to recycle it, even if it does require extra effort to capture it at the plant.
-- Tonight’s documentary ‘Plastic: Can you live without it?’ was broadcast on February 15 but is on catchup via ITVHub