Don’t vilify all the plastic

…it has some important qualities that can’t always be matched by alternatives (yet?)!

Plastic has been getting a really bad press recently.

Our impact on the environment is an issue that’s really important to me, and our family’s use of disposable products (in particular plastic) is something I do worry about.

Nappies and wipes are our biggest offenders.

Ever since J was a baby I’ve dabbled with cloth nappies, but just never found a fit that worked for her and didn’t leak.  Now she’s older, there are very few cloth options anyway, but we’ve found they require so much additional stuffing for absorbency that they become really bulky, and result in an unnatural sitting & standing posture. For someone working extra hard on gross motor skills, having a massive wad of extra fabric around your bum really doesn’t help!  Also, while big cloth nappies look V cute on a little chunky baby or toddler, on an older child, a big padded bum draws more attention to something which is a very personal aspect of their disability.

We’ve also used cloth wipes off and on (cheeky wipes), and the recent press coverage about disposable culture is making me think I ought to invest in some more!  However I don’t think we’d ever manage to get away from regular wipes altogether, not to mention the amount of anti-bac wipes I also get through (in no small thanks to my OCD :-/ ).

This is not new news!  Lot’s of people have been banging on about waste and recycling for decades!  But it’s great that the mainstream is now taking notice of the impact of waste on the environment, and it has made me stop and relook at my own habits! For example, last time I was in the supermarket I thought to myself, “ok then, I’ll reigninte my efforts to buy my veg loose! No more plastic bags!”…. but there were no bags other than plastic bags to put them in to weigh them! Waitrose (and all other supermarkets!), please give us the option of some paper bags to put our satsumas in!

That said, there is a wider context to the sudden flurry of attention, as people begin to get judgey with one another and some sweeping (dare I say self-righteous?) statements are being shared around, vilifying the use of many commonly used plastic disposable products, which unfortunately don’t take account of everyone’s circumstances.

To the average person, perhaps products like plastic straws and items such as pre-cut fruit and veg are just wasteful, and it’s true that many of us can get by easily enough without straws…. however, many of us is not the same thing as all of us!  J for example, drinks from a Munchkin 360 restricted flow cup (which incidentally is a fab mainstream reusable, but plastic!, product), but sometimes when I’m not on the ball, I forget to put one in my bag.  This means that when we’re out, we need to buy her a carton with a straw, that we can help her to drink from, or one of those fruit shoot type drinks bottles (plastic and disposable!) with the sports bottle type spout.  As this fab post, The Last Straw, by Wheelscapades explains, J is by no means the only person for whom a straw can actually be an essential piece of kit!

Blogger Shona Louise (@shonalouiseblog) also gave this great interview on the Channel 4 News and wrote this enlightening metro article, in response to a series of social media posts recently shaming people who buy pre-prepared food and pre-cut fresh fruit and veg, without considering the importance of these products to some disabled people’s independence.

I accept that the accessibility benefits of some of these products may not have occurred to people that don’t rely on them, but I find it so disheartening that even when people like Wheelscapades and Shona Louise are speaking out, I’m still seeing #BanTheStraw and #PassOnPlastic etc enthusiastically shared on twitter. The biggest problem about this kind of shaming is that it ends up making those who already worry about their environmental impact (but perhaps don’t have other options) feel the most guilty, and those that don’t care, still don’t care!  Products may then also become singled out with people feeling pressured into justifying why they use them and/or ending up with a price hike (like all specialist items!)!

As I say, I’ve always been a bit of a greeny, and am all for cutting waste, but let’s think about the wider impact before calling for outright bans on certain products, listen to other peoples perspectives, create some viable alternatives first, and create more opportunity for people to cut their own waste, when (and if) they can!

Empty glass milk bottles in a wire rackOne of the things we’ve done is arrange to have our milk delivered in glass bottles.  It’s a little more expensive than buying from the shop, but is worth it (for us) for the convenience of having it arrive on the doorstep in time for the kids breakfast and makes me feel like I’m offsetting some of our other household waste and reducing my personal my waste mountain just a little bit!  But in saying that, I am well aware this is not an option for everyone, not just due to the extra cost, but also because a glass bottle is heavier and less ergonomic to lift, so I would never be calling for the abolition of shaped plastic bottles with handles unless there was a viable more sustainable alternative!

We really need to get better at recycling plastic, then perhaps this wouldn’t be so much of an issue!

And how about bringing back the option of returnable bottles for other drinks!

PS… Tesco! Why oh why have you decided to remove all 5p plastic bags from your stores, yet you provide no sustainable alternative!? No, I don’t want another thick plastic ‘bag for life’ if I’ve popped in to the shop without one of my many bags for life on this occasion! Give me the option of something more sustainable (paper?) or let me buy a thin plastic one that I could at least re-use for a bin liner (happy to pay the same cost as a bag for life for it!)!


14 Replies to “Don’t vilify all the plastic”

  1. I totally relate to this. I aim to do what I can but no way I could survive without the disposable wipes. Also, it’s about cost a lot of them too. I would happily use more recyclable products if I could afford them. I’ve made changes where I can though x

  2. I’ve tried reducing my plastic waste, and I’m finding my bin is much emptier as most plastic can’t be recycled here. As for nappies I’ve looked at reusable pull ups for my 5 year old who’s still in nappies ( they take over the bin) but they seem to stop at 3, or extremely expensive for one reusable when I’d need at least 5 a day. I’m proud to say this January I’ve not bought a single plastic bottle, I bought my son a drinks bottle and have remembered every time to take it. The only bottles have been the fruit shoot ones that’s came with his happy meal once a week. So it’s start right?!

    1. Love the look of the bendy metal straws… might have to invest in some of those!
      Would just be a matter of remembering to take them out each time. I guess I could keep some in the car for back up!

  3. Completely agree with you. We are all trying to do our best, but sometimes circumstances dictate we can’t be as green as we’d like to be.
    The paper idea is a great one.

  4. Oh this has been on mind a lot lately too – perhaps we are at a point of societal shift? I hope so? the buy and throw has become insane. I now buy organic banana’s – but the shop only sells organic ones in plastic wrappers. Drives me nuts. I’d be happy to buy pre-cut stuff that wasn’t in plastic wrappers but the biggest problem is that they don’t sell it like this! Super post! #accesslinky

  5. A very good post, making very good points! We moved back to the UK from Sweden, just over a year ago, after 20(!) years, so I tend to compare things here to there. And most things are better here! But I’m surprised at how little recycling is going on here. So I suspect there’s room for improvement there, and I think things need to be done on a greater scale, rather than shaming individuals for using straws etc (and I’ll admit that my son uses straws quite often). Also, there are a lot of people who buy loads of completly unnessecary things, like trinkets they’ve barely got room for, new lipstick and nail polish every other week (or day!), ready made food in plastic containers daily, and so on. It bugs me to see that kind of waste while others are searching for paper bags to put their onions in 😉 Still, I don’t want to be too harsh about people’s personal choices (after all, as your post explains so well, there may be good reasons behind those choices), so I think the main thing needed is probably better ways of dealing with the waste, such as recycling, composting etc?

  6. It’s a tough one, we are trying to cut down on plastic but when all else fails, GG wil drink a fruit shoot and nothing else. I think if we all make an effort then it will make a big difference.

  7. I completely agree as feel that on the race to rid ourselves of plastic, we are costing the planet in other ways! Paper bags take a lot more resources to make in the first place, although they ar easier to recycle. Similarly making plastics from a plant base is definitely a step forward but not if we have to cut down rainforest to make space to grow it!

    In regards to cloth nappies for older children and adults, please have a look at a fantastic small British company called Blankenship Care, they are doing some amazing things in this sector

    1. I’ll take a look at Blanken Care, thank you!
      We use washable swim pants and try to use our washable wipes as much as possible too but have always struggle to find a fit with cloth nappies for various reasons. Always up for trying something new though!

Comments are closed.