We cannot do without it because we consumers are not given the choice. Moreover, the regulations allow companies to produce tonnes of plastics. The best thing we can do is make the multinationals understand that these levels of production are unsustainablefor our planet and we must invite them to reduce them, by a lot.
What can we do as individuals?
WMC: A lot. First, you have to give up what I call the "Big Four": bottles, glasses, bags and straws. For each of these there is a reusable alternative. This is enough to have a huge impact on your daily plastic pollution. But the revolution can be made by looking at the plastic we have in the rooms of our homes. For example, it is possible to wash clothes inside a bag to collect microparticles that are harmful and cause 30 per cent of pollution in the oceans. Or replace liquid shampoo with a solid one. A lot can also be done in the kitchen. We are so used to buying plastic packaging to wrap our food in that we don't even notice. We should choose reusable packaging in the long run, or use paper bags. In the UK alone, eleven billion plastic items are products for take-away lunches.
Is it enough to change things?
WMC: This is the real message of my book: it is too difficult to solve this problem alone unless all of us together raise our voices and use the most powerful weapon we have as consumers: deciding what to buy. Whenever we give up plastic at home it is important to talk to our friends, our family and colleagues. Organise plastic-free parties. When we see plastic in the rivers, in the seas, in the mountains, on the street we should take a picture and tag companies. We must hold them accountable. Write letters to your representatives in the institutions, try to get media attention with social campaigns, return the plastic-wrapped merchandise to the sender and leave the plastic packaging waste at the till when you go shopping. If the cashier gets angry, apologise and explain what you are doing. Plastic will not be eliminated without a fight and billions of small gestures can have an effect that will impact the entire planet.
But we need plastic. Isn't this so?
WMC: Of course, plastic is cheap, hygienic, durable. Indeed, it's all too durable, this is the problem. There is a reason why it has become so widespread all over the world. But what is the point of producing a product that we can use only once for a few minutes and then we have to throw it away, leaving it to remain in the environment for centuries? Give me a good reason. In strategic sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, plastic can remain. But we need to abolish disposable plastics.
How long will it take to change the global mentality?
WMC: The change has already begun. What is surprising about plastic is that it seems to touch many different generations. My parents, my grandparents, remember growing up without plastic. When they return home from the supermarket, they get angry because they appreciate the huge amount of plastic they are throwing away. And then there are the young generations who are concerned about the environment and their future. There is no single way to give up plastic, but there is only one message: we must stop producing so much. The only way to end this dependency is to join forces.
Author: The Slowear Journal