I had a realisation during lockdown that concerns our recycling, there is so much of it. It began with the realisation on the amount of stuff that we had in our grey recycling bin when it is emptied every two weeks, scary. I started looking at what I personally was contributing to the plastic mountain that is developing around the world and the mass that I’d dropped into the sea. So decision one, stop using all cosmetic products that come in plastic containers. This has been easier than I expected. I now have bars of body soap, hair soap and conditioner, then I found some blocks of toothpaste in cardboard containers. The next on the list is shaving soap. No more aerosols or plastic tubes. I am trying to be sensible and use up all the stuff that remains in plastic containers. After all, each piece of plastic that we currently create will be around for about 450 years, ouch!
Next up is tea bags. I did not realise until recently that tea bags are lined with plastic. So it is back to the loose tea and a tea spoon, I guess the name of the spoon explains a lot. I notice that on the TV they are now advertising coffee bags which, I assume, must also be lined with plastic. This journey into plastics, and my growing intention to stop, if possible, my personal use of single use plastic over this year, took me to view the Espresso machines that we use. The issue here is Nespresso capsules. The system produces wonderful coffee but at what cost to the environment. Nespresso claim that their capsules are all recyclable. Interestingly Ed sent me a Guardian article that suggests that very few of the capsules are actually recycled and that the vast majority end up in landfill any way. The recyclability of the capsules was one of my excuses for enjoying the Nespresso coffee. Worst of all it turns out that though the capsules are mainly aluminium they do also contain plastic. Now, there are refillable stainless steel capsules that are comparable with the Nespresso machine that would solve the problem. Good coffee produced in a good coffee machine but without the waste.
The issue that Ed raised when he suggested this podcast was ‘the cost of staying on top’ and reading the Guardian article it would imply that many manufacturers, not just Nestle, have to do more and more to stay on top and maintain their market share or grow their market share. While I started our drinking Nespresso in the belief that that had the recycling business sown up can I really now justify the ongoing level of waste and pollution that the system would appear to be producing? The only answer for me is to invest in the reusable pods and fill them myself with the best coffee. The magic of the Nespresso system is that they have perfected a way of blowing high pressure are through the coffee that creates the Creme that is distinctive in all good Italian coffees.
I know carry a stainless steel silicone lidded coffee cup in the car so that I don’t have to use yet another paper/plastic cup when I’m out and about and need my fix! Once I start thinking like this I wonder if I can justify the endless plastic bags that the vegetables come in. It seems that in the end the cost of staying on top, for most manufacturers, is our health and the destruction of the planet.
As we come out of lockdown what world will we be coming out to? There are times in the social economic cycle when we have choices to make things different. Many people are looking at where and how they work. At transport and walking or using a bike. I hope that many have also been looking at their consumption and the amount of waste that we each produce.
Perhaps there is a point when staying on top is the result of creating less pollution and becoming more planet friendly. If we as consumers learn to go after products that do have good and honest green credentials then the negative effect that we have on the planet will also diminish. As long as we chase convenience, and the ease of things like for example ready cooked meals we will keep creating even more waste and while the companies that produce these goods will stay on top, they will also kill us and the planet.
I will climb down off the hobby horse now and leave you with this thought. Every bit of plastic that you use today will remain somewhere in the environment for another 450 years. In that time it will not offer anything good or reusable by nature it will simply poison and pollute.
Take care, recycle and avoid single use plastic as much as possible.