With so much more awareness around the plastic bag problems of the world, as well as a number of supermarkets set to phase out the supply of plastic bags altogether by the end of the year I thought it was a good time to add a little bit of context for those of you who don’t fully understand the extent of what we’re trying to achieve here.
On March 24th Ed Sheeran lit up Mt Smart Stadium with his Divide show here in little ol’ New Zealand. What an amazingly talented performer and so engaging too. I had already seen his Multiply show and was just as impressed second time around. The wet weather saw everyone brave the rain in their snuggies (I had one of my chunkier knits on and raincoat because the kids had reminded me I’d need it in this weather… I drew the line at their gumboot suggestion though lol) and I personally thought it only added to the atmosphere – at least then you only get the most committed fans to enjoy the show with.
“In August 1955, LIFE magazine published an article with the now-vaguely-sinister, then-celebratory title, “Throwaway Living.” The idea, it seems, was that humans had entered a kind of wanton Golden Age, when cleaning up after ourselves was just one more quaint waste of time, and tossing more and more of our used-once items into the trash was another sign of modernity’s relentless ascendancy over the drudgery of the past.”
‘Throwaway Living’: When Tossing Out Everything Was All the Rage – Ben Cosgrove, May ’14
My first issue after arriving at the show was with the plastic cup-holders at the bar. Don’t get me wrong, the plastic cups grate too, but it seems to be particularly difficult for people to believe waxed paper will hold their liquids in hand. Holders on the other hand, of which there are perfectly capable cardboard varieties and so much more available, are so much more disappointing to see in plastic form. And in the rubbish too, no-one thinks about taking theirs back for next round, or the cups either. It’s just another example of a complete lack of thought for this particular plastic evil we face.
And then I saw it, walking down the main steps into rear GA, wearing their personal preference of either laundry-bag-blue or transparent (I can only presume for those who still wanted you to see the festival outfits they’d purchased specifically), a sea of over-sized-plastic-bag donning Concert-goers. I can’t say numbers but I would say at least 60% of the attendees were wearing them. Disposable, single-use raincoats – UGH!!
Let’s throw some numbers around (and I’ll try to be conservative): let’s say there were 40,000 attendees and half of them were wearing one of these bags, so 20,000. Then let’s assume these were around 10x the size of a standard supermarket bag. If HDPE bags from a variety of grocery stores and retailers can weigh between 4.0 and 6.5 grams each, let’s estimate these weigh in at around 50 grams each, and times that by 20,000 consumers, that’s a total of 1 tonne.
1 tonne. 1,000 kilos of non-biodegradable, single-use plastic IN ONE NIGHT. I’ll just let that sink in.
Image courtesy of dw.com. For the full related story click here.
Following this I’m at a monthly family catch-up dinner with some of my best friends and my children’s best friends: my cousins and their cousins. We’ve done this enough for everyone to know my sisters and I will collect the rubbish, sort the scraps etc etc. But for some reason I find the bin being fulled to brink (and almost goose-guarded) and quickly closed in the hopes I wouldn’t see (“just close your eyes, Scarlet”) and therefore maybe wouldn’t care that it was all going into general waste.
This on its own I could’ve subtly managed with little issue, but then I’m trying to forcibly open the rubbish to gain access while someone’s standing in front of it to stop me. And then all of a sudden I’m the one trying to defend my actions, and by this point there are four of my cousins/in-laws standing around the rubbish bin trying to explain to me why it doesn’t matter if I don’t sort it. I maintained a certain amount of passivity during this whole exchange, much I think to everyone’s frustration, and in the end I was left standing in the kitchen at the party (there’s a song for every occasion, my mother always says). Meanwhile I’m left to my sorting – food scraps, aluminium, soft plastics, hard plastics, paper/cardboard, wax paper for burning – and feeling a bit wormy, a little unfairly considering I didn’t even open this particular can.
On the plus side I did manage to educate the audience that most of the stores have a soft-plastic recycling drop now which no one seemed to know until this point – not that I’m sure they’ll do anything with that particular nugget, but I can’t do everything for everyone.
Here we have two very loud displays of complete ignorance, arrogance, or disregard for the danger our world is in, and it pains me to use such strong words because one of these instances was by some of my nearest and dearest, but you can’t really put it down to anything else. Why do people find it so easy to dismiss the danger of plastic in our environment? I hear a lot now from people who are “anti-plastic bags” and that seems to be the extent of their battle, and yet the same people will accept a straw with their milkshake without a second thought.
Image courtesy of National Geographic’s “Planet or Plastic” campaign.
So after an amazing weekend with minimal issue (and before I get too much more riled up) I’ll leave you with a couple of take-aways minus the plastic packaging:
- Always be aware of the effect you have on yourself and your environment, including the people and creatures who inhabit it. With the war on plastic being obvious enough for people to VOTE to be rid of bags even against their own convenience, why then are Countdown now able to SELL plastic bags for $1 while people feel BETTER about themselves for paying for it? It’s confusing for me, and just indicates a real lack of thought and consciousness in our society.
- DO NOT discount the effort others are making for our environment, just to make yourself feel better about being too lazy to do anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not out to tell anyone what to do or how to live, but the problem is REAL, and we can’t put all our hopes on a space-station being built before we destroy the planet as the “answer” to the survival of our species.
If you want to start making some moves against plastic use or just an insight of the scale of the problem because you are (or were) genuinely unaware, you can visit National Geographic’s Planet or Plastic for some astonishing stats, and also to make your own pledge against plastic to our planet. Otherwise, if you’re ready to start reducing your plastic use now, Greenpeace NZ have an awesome toolkit just for us which I found easy (enough) to follow.
Thanks for listening, sorry for the wait and I’ll be back soon… promise I won’t take another 4 months 🙂