Plastic: friend or foe

Berkhamsted Living Magazine Plastic Free Berko

Although we use them every day, plastics are very unnatural. Their dense material is so different from most substances that have evolved on Earth. Think about it, when you pull a piece of paper apart it will tear quite quickly. If you then put that paper in a bin with waste-food it will slowly disintegrate into the surrounding organic substances.

While plastic is incredibly useful for human beings, it does not obey the organic process of decomposition. Plastic becomes brittle, and most alarmingly then breaks down into powders of infinitesimal bits of plastic that pollute our soil, rivers, lakes and sea, all of which provide our water supply. These bits of plastic are very hard or even impossible to collect and destroy. Most animals including us human beings now have these bits in our bodies.

We use plastic to wrap our food, to use various clothing items made from it, and to drink large amounts of water from bottles made from it. However, as a species we have now become aware that we have created a monster of immense proportions. The villain of the piece is of course the single-use plastic bag.

Even Michael Gove despaired of the sight of exported plastic bags (from well-known supermarkets in the UK) languishing on huge rubbish sites in the Far East. What right do we have to export our inhuman materials to more natural areas of the globe where people do not yet have an economy that can neither refuse rubbish from richer countries, nor deal with that rubbish themselves?

In Berkhamsted there has been a considerable focus on plastic both within a campaigning group called Plastic-free Berko (see on Facebook). There you will find all sorts of replacements for conventional use of plastic i.e. the ubiquitous plastic bottle can be made redundant by purchasing other types of metal reusable bottles. Many personal hygiene products are now available without plastic. One campaigning tactic used was to talk to supermarkets about unnecessary plastic packaging. Both Waitrose and Tesco were amenable to the group’s ideas, but the tide of plastic remains there for all to see.

Please do look at their Facebook page for the heroic and imaginative replacements for plastic, especially in the area of make-up, skin creams and, of course, bags.