I’ve been thinking quite a lot about plastic bags.
I’m a bit of a stickler for taking my own bags, declining the offer of the ubiquitous plastic one, stuffing unsuitable items into my handbag and carrying things home in my arms if I happen to buy stuff unprepared. I think it’s a hang up from way back. There was definitely a moment in my youth when I registered that my outward derisory attitude to my grandmother’s habit of cleaning out the sandwich bags and hanging them out to dry was not, in the long term, to anyone’s benefit. I think it was around the time of a coming of age visit to the USA where I could see the bigger, more shiny, more packaged version of my life coming home to roost. It was obvious it just wasn’t sustainable.
The ‘trying to avoid landfill’ is a thing for me too. Second hand clothes are a total bargain, and exciting to ‘hunt’ but there’s also that blindingly obvious thing in my mind… what is the point of actually throwing away stuff that other people can use?
But this week I’ve been challenged on a deeper level. I don’t have a funky link to anything, but at our church’s fab Christmas Fair last weekend there was a stall run by a woman who was selling beautiful stainless steel tiffin boxes, cutlery sets, metal straws, and ‘keep cups’. Imagine a plastic-free Hackney she said as she showed me the straws. Yes, I replied, we just use the plastic ones. No…. not the throw-away plastic ones I stammered, alert to my massive faux-pas. Those ones you can re-use. Put in the dishwasher. (Nervous laugh). But why not avoid plastic altogether? she said.
Why not indeed? It’s had me thinking. Honey in jars. Fabric bags. Tomato ketchup in glass bottles. Lemonade, ditto. Because I am a tip-top recycler, cleaning it all out and everything, my conscience is assuaged every Friday morning when it’s carted away. And of course the glass will have to be recycled too… but that’s still got to be better for the planet right?
It must be in the air. It’s recently been reported that the ‘first ever’ plastic free shop opened in Hackney (where else?!) this autumn. I feel a bit sorry for Unpackaged, which tried (and failed) with this idea over ten years ago. Which seems to have been airbrushed out of lazy journalist’s research because it was before twitter took off. Might as well never have happened. And, leaving even less of an online footprint, twenty years ago the aforementioned church also dabbled with a bulk-buy, sell-in-homemade-packages, sort of shop (imaginatively titled the E5 Shop) in order to try to bring good quality organic produce to those who couldn’t afford the hiked prices in the supermarkets when it was all becoming trendy. That was short lived too but there’s no doubt people up and down the country huffing and puffing at the sound of London bleating about how it’s so right on, even though their local ‘scoop shop’ has been selling stuff out of big buckets for decades.
But, shouldn’t knock it I guess. This is obviously one step closer to a plastic free Hackney. Which would be no bad thing at all.
Sign here for a concrete way of tackling the problem … https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/s/bottle-deposit
And read here for a salutary reminder as you go and buy your Christmas tat… https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/dec/10/on-12th-day-christmas-present-junk