Drowning in a sea of plastic

I NEEDED a few plastic knives and forks. As an eco-conscious woman, I would never buy plastic cutlery but I had to offer five sets for dinner out of respect for a family’s religion; too hard to explain.

But the supermarket only had a packet of 25 forks; plus a separate packet of 25 knives; and then 25 spoons. Seventy-five bits of plastic, which would mean ditching 60 into landfill.

I had an eco-meltdown in aisle three. It had been coming. Having been bargain shopping all week at the end-of-financial-year sales, I found myself opening more brainless plastic packaging than I could finally tolerate.

The footage of what horrors have been found in our oceans while searching for MH370 and tragic pictures of suffocated creatures have torn at my heart. So I became distressed looking at the mounting pile of useless, non-biodegradable, human detritus on my lounge-room floor.

There were electronic devices encased in stiff plastic that needed cutting with scissors, imprisoned so tight to ensure they didn’t get up and run away; makeup and face cream that needed tweezers, then scissors and ­finally a jackhammer to open; cardboard that can’t be recycled because manufacturers had thoughtlessly stuck on plastic or Styrofoam with superglue; mail I picked up wrapped in plastic for no apparent reason at all.

In the department stores there were brand-name plastic bags everywhere. I did end up with a couple due to bad planning but I made sure that 10 items were stuffed in each, rather than 20 separate bags like many people I saw.

There’s just too much of it — too much plastic, too much wastage, too many idiotically made items. I have to saw the plastic lid off one cardboard carton with a bread knife in order to recycle as we have separate pick-up bins. Most people just give up, even me at times. And why aren’t supermarkets encouraging customers to give fruit and veggies to check-out people by hand for the scales, not in plastic bags? Don’t get me started on plastic water bottles.

But all is not lost. There is a growing number of ­companies such as Green Man Packaging, which I found online, marketing biodegradable solutions to corporations.

Packaging made from natural plant materials like corn and sugarcane can break down in 12 weeks, unlike regular plastic, which can take 1000 years.

To its great credit, Apple is one company making the change. It’s starting to use some dissolvable packaging made from a renewable tapioca paper, but it still has a way to go.

We need more praising of companies doing the right thing, and more naming and shaming of those who aren’t. More boycotts, names on petitions, social media outing of corporate offenders. The time of Packaging Spring has come.


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