The shame of the modern age is there for all to see

The Good Life Letter

29th December 2017
  • How are you leaving your mark this New Year?
  • The horror of a blighted planet
  • Discover the four stage plan that we can all follow

I hope that you all had a very happy Christmas and are looking forward to another weekend of festivities with friends and family.

In preparation for the New Year at Chez Collins I have been having a look at a few things we ought to be doing as a family.

Setting time aside for just being together is one of them. The growing family now has priorities of its own with boyfriends and girlfriends, friend friends, and work taking up loads of what was family time.

We have also begun to look at how we are living and what we could change to help each other, support friends and neighbours, and also do our bit for nature and the planet.

During the conversation about this one night my daughter, who has changed from being a precocious young teenager into a very thoughtful late teenager, challenged us about a problem that we were sitting in the middle of.
Looking around us was the detritus of Christmas Day.

Black plastic sacks stood out by the overflowing recycling bin full of plastic wrapping and water bottles, boxes and carrier bags.

With dismay it dawned on me that what we had in front of us was the travesty of modern life.

Go into any shop now and whatever you buy is in some sort of wrapping, then the shop assistant puts it into a bag or box which is basically another sort of packaging. Food items are the worst when you have bags within bags all over wrapped with cellophane and then loaded into a bag.

A simple apple can be trussed up like Houdini!

But as my dear darling daughter pointed out, the amount of plastic we are now using and then dumping is having a major impact on the world we live in.

Where plastics are used and how they are now showing up in the deepest and darkest parts of the world might come as a surprise to you.

A planet blighted

After starting to think about all that I had heard and read recently, things started to make sense about how we, as a family, could begin to alter the fate of our waste.

Plastics have been a marvellous invention and the products produced are all around us.

Bottles, washing up bowls, garden furniture and piles of packaging are obvious but there are many other types of plastic that we just donít see or arenít aware of.

Take clothing for example.

Many of the fabrics used to make clothes are based upon plastic; polyesters, acrylics and blends with cottons make up most of the clothing we buy.

In a remarkable study at Plymouth University they found that an average 6kg (13lb) washing load releases 140,000 fibres from a polyester-cotton blend, nearly half a million polyester fibres and a staggering 700,000 acrylic fibres.

These small particles then enter the waste water system, pass unmolested through the sewerage process and get returned to natural water courses as they make their way to the sea.

Within two weeks the fibre content from just one wash has become lodged in the gills and stomachs of sea fish and there is even a chance that you will be eating them yourself within a month of being released.

That is how fast these microfilaments are moving in our environment.

The little exfoliating beads used in gels, scrubs and toothpaste have been found in the stomachs of fish who live in some of the deepest waters in the oceans and are discovered throughout the marine food chain.

This has all happened since the first plastics were made in 1907 and first came into widespread use in the 1970s meaning that in less than half a lifetime we have polluted our planet so badly that it may never recover.

Iím sorry to put a dampener on the festive proceedings but this was a topic that has been gnawing away at me for the last few days and I need to highlight how critical the need is to make a change.

Even our government, stricken as it is with our plans to dig a tunnel out of Europe (or was that the Great Escape?) has been forced to act.

Just before Christmas the Environment Minister Mr Gove stated his four-point plan as:

  • Cut the total amount of plastic in circulation.
  • Reduce the number of different plastics in use, because that will help recycling firms.
  • Improve the rate of recycling, which has been slipping recently.
  • And make it easier for individuals to know what goes into the recycling bin and what goes into general rubbish.

Which is all well and good, but what about taking the retail industry to task. Why do I have to have everything overwrapped and over packaged?

How to fight a guerrilla war against packaging

Yesterday morning I went shopping to one of the supermarkets locally.

Normally I donít use them for much of my shopping but on this occasion I wanted to see what the extent of packaging was.

Once I got home I opened and unpacked the contents of my shopping bags and was horrified to see the mound of discarded plastic that sat in the middle of the kitchen floor.

I collected it up, squished and squashed it flat and put it into a small cardboard box, then I mailed it back to the store using their free post customer service address.

When I visit my local butcher he wraps everything up in white paper and occasionally ties it up with twine, never ever does he use cellophane or plastic as he says it makes the meat sweat and alters the taste Ė and he is right.

My vegetable stockist at the the local farm shop hands me my leeks, swedes and turnips in a cardboard box and my apples and Clementineís in a brown paper bag, because he feels that the veg is still alive and breathing and needs to be open to the air.

Once again I concur with the logic.

If these artisans know this and take the correct action why arenít the supermarkets and producers who supply them?

So, my current action plan to minimise plastic use is:

  1. Shop wisely, but where I feel too much packaging is used to return it back to the store. Incidentally I am also about to embark on a review of our own shop too!
  2. Wise up to safer laundry by using fewer manmade fibres and utilising a more gentle washing system such as [Terra Wash.]
  3. Get my milk delivered to the door in bottles rather than buy it in plastic packs Ė which also keeps the great British milkman in a job
  4. As a family we stop buying anything in plastic bottles wherever we can. Which means wine and beer mostly!
  5. Just a few simple things can make all the difference.

Make some of this part of your New Yearís resolutions too!

Yours, as always

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