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April 28, 2008

I came across two articles in the press this weekend that have made me pause for thought – Sustainablebio-plastic can damage the environment | Environment  in ‘The Guardian’ Weekend Edition, and – Plastic: The elephant in the room in the Financial Times magazine.

The Guardian article concentrates on the fact that a recent study the paper did suggests that

The worldwide effort by supermarkets and industry to replace conventional oil-based plastic with eco-friendly “bioplastics” made from plants is causing environmental problems and consumer confusion…..

…..substitutes [to conventional plastic] can increase emissions of greenhouse gases on landfill sites, some need high temperatures to decompose and others cannot be recycled in Britain.

Many of the bioplastics are also contributing to the global food crisis…..

However, the article pointes out that;  ‘the [biodegradable] industry says bioplastics make carbon savings of 30-80%.’

The article goes on to say that;  ‘In theory bioplastics are good.  But in practice there are lots of barriers.’

As campaigners, I believe that we have to acknowledge these issues.

The Financial Times talks about various forms of packaging and, in particular, plastic packaging and points out that

…acknowledging the good qualities in plastic packaging……. cannot be allowed to obscure two unavoidable truths:  our current, single-use relationship with plastic packaging cannot last;  and change, both in materials that we use and ways in which we consume, is going to come largely through the market.  So our behaviour matters…….

… – Mr Packaging – put the challenge another way.  “The amount of packaging we have is a reflection of the life we lead.  That’s the fundamental issue.  And if you want to make a change to that, then you can change your life habits and you can try and get other people to change theirs.  But I’m sorry, that ain’t going to happen.

I beg to differ.

The Banchory bags Campaign is not trying to tackle the whole problem of plastics and I certainly do not have an answer to the many questions these articles raise.  However, habits can be changed [drinking and driving/smoking in public places] and, if shoppers took their own reusable bags with them every time they shopped, we would significantly reduce the need for at least single-use plastic carrier bags.

It is worth remembering what the Financial Times points out:

If the rest of the world lived as Europe does, it would need three planets to sustain it.  To consume our rightful share of resources, we must think in terms of radical reductions.


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