Plastic- Local Environmental Group Frustrated

This is a copy of the press release sent to the Hereford Times:

For over a year the Ewyas Harold & District for People and Planet Group[i]  has been providing a local service recycling some items not covered by the kerb side collections. This has included soft plastics such as compost / fertiliser bags, plastic film and rigid plastic tubs[ii].

But recently the firm where we have been taking plastic is struggling to shift on the soft plastic for processing and is not accepting any more. Although the plastic we have been collecting was processed in the UK, a lot of plastic was taken to China. China has now stopped taking it. It is right that the UK now has to deal with its own problem, but in the short term there is not sufficient processing capacity. Although this plastic can be recycled and the demand is there for its reuse, large quantities of farm plastic and other soft plastics will go to landfill instead.

This will cause problems: plastic does not degrade; large plastic items kill or maim animals, birds and fish; plastic nanoparticles are in every part of our planetary environment; danger now exists to all living beings’ wellbeing, including the entire food chain from microorganisms to human beings. We are eating plastic in almost all food items. Plastic microparticles are transported in water everywhere. Plastic is killing countless numbers of wildlife of all species. What is it doing to us?

The only way even to begin to deal with the problem is to immediately stop producing certain types of plastic. All types of plastic must be radically reduced through replacing them with other substances that do not destroy the environment. “This cannot be left to ‘Market Forces’”, says Astrid Mick. “It requires national governments and international effort (the U.N.) to tackle this IMMEDIATELY and as a TOP PRIORITY.”

What about all the plastic that is already “out there”? There will inevitably be a period of transition when reuse and recycling of plastics will also be critical. We are told that the industry is not investing in more recycling facilities because they expect the demand for recycled plastic to fall, as alternatives to plastic are found. But we fear this may be a premature reaction. Although alternatives are being sought for much plastic, there are many uses where, at the moment, plastic remains the only viable option.

Alternative materials for packaging, particularly for food, will have to be found, including paper, cardboard, cellophane, bamboo, wood, and other organic matter. One new innovative substance called graphene, first developed at Manchester University, shows promising potential for new types of packaging material³. This is where our hope for future packaging lies.

Everyone should take action to cut down on the use of plastics and to ensure that any plastic they do use is reused or recycled. Take your own bags shopping, avoid food wrapped in plastic (choosing the loose options instead), and complain about any goods you receive which have excessive plastic packaging, pointing out that alternatives are available.  

For farmers non-plastic alternatives for bale wrap seem to be slow coming to the market. In the meantime, if any colour other than black is used it can be more usefully recycled.  

Sue Young, Astrid Mick and Pamela Wright on behalf of For People & Planet

[i]Ewyas Harold and District “For People and Planet” is a group of like-minded people, seeking to create a fairer society in tune with the environment. We support issues of fairness, justice and sustainability wherever possible. To this end we support Fair Trade, sustainable farming practices, fossil fuel reduction, and organise litter picks and regular collections of items not recycled by the Council. We are open to anyone interested in these issues to join us. For further information contact Sue Young (We are not affiliated to the national group called “People and Planet” which is a largely student based organisation.)

[ii] Other items collected for reuse or recycling are tin foil, plastic plant pots, small electrical items and inhalers. The next regular collection is on Saturday March 30 from 10am to noon at the doctor’s surgery car park in Ewyas Harold.


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