My walk to work takes me four and half miles from north London to central London. Unsurprisingly, I see quite a lot of rubbish on my way. And it really, really angers me. Partly I’m angry because in addition to there being lots of rubbish in London, there’s also lots of bins, ideal for putting the rubbish in. But I’m more angry because so much of the rubbish is unnecessary, and exists because it’s more convenient than a version of that product that doesn’t require the generation of waste – water bottles, sandwich packets, plastic bags.To me this represents the root of the reason that we’re a planet rapidly filling up with plastic waste that’s destroying wildlife and polluting the oceans – because as a society, convenience wins. This is the norm, but it isn’t OK and it has to stop.
A rather grim example of the problem we’re causing strikes me every day at Euston, as I walk past a park. Through the railings is the remainder of a squirrel, which is fairly unpleasant. Over the course of two months, it has pretty much disappeared to nothing, back into the soil. Next to it is a plastic fizzy drink bottle, and that looks exactly the same as it did two months ago. In a rather dark and depressing moment of thought, it occurred to me that the vast majority, if not all, the plastic I’ve thrown away during my life will be in existence long after I am. I don’t want to be remembered for the rubbish I’ve created – I want to be remembered for being kind, and a good friend, and all sorts of other lovely things!
This is why a month to highlight the ubiquity of single-use plastic is important. It’s more than just saying that plastic isn’t a great choice for a disposable product, what with it being a material that lasts for ages to package something you’ll use for a few minutes. For me, it’s about saying that convenience isn’t the most important thing, and it’s not OK to be lazy and why the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality that’s all too familiar when it comes to environmental destruction has to change. It’s about wanting to live in an area where people feel happy and proud to be in, where wildlife can be safe, and it’s about not wanting other places to suffer in the extraction of needless oil or where the barely-used plastic gets dumped or burned. It’s about wanting everyone to have this, not just those of us lucky enough to be able to chuck a plastic bottle in a bin and never have to see the consequences.
I think everyone wants to live in an area that feels nice to be in, and isn’t teeming with rubbish, and I know that for many people, convenience is the most important thing because they have so many other things to worry about that they don’t have time for this. But lots of us do have the time, and also the energy and passion. By spreading the word, lobbying companies to make better choices, and taking the time to choose carefully and kindly, we are making a step in the right direction. Hopefully once the path has been trodden, others will see it and follow too.
Bring on tomorrow and let’s do this! xx