…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!
One 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!)!