The Last Straw

coloured plastic straws.

The Last Straw

This is going to be a bit of a rant. I’m very passionate about the environment. I always have been. I don’t see that being modern, technological and up to date can’t also mean loving trees and the world in which we live. I’ve never understood why people think that to want to recycle and reuse things means that you need to look like a grungy version of an awful scarecrow. But I digress.

My main complaint at the moment is people that want to stop us using plastic. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for removing the vast amounts of plastic that we have plaguing the planet, but it angers me when we’re consistently targeting the wrong people. The general public have long been blamed for wanting things wrapped up in filmy material. But I don't believe that that is true. Supermarkets have long been doing whatever they can to buy in bulk and sell as much as they can to us with no thought or consideration for either the environment or the consumer. If you buy the marketing spiel that they care about either then you’re deluded. They’re there to make money. Lots of it. However they can.

Every Little Helps?

None of the major supermarkets give a stuff about reducing and recycling, unless there’s a product attached to it that they can sell to you. Of course they care about public opinion, which is why their marketing departments spend so much time and effort telling you that they care about you. Don’t be fooled. They care about the money in your pocket. They want you to give it to them. Cynical? Sure. But I prefer to think of it as realistic.

Look how quickly they removed plastic bags from the shops once public opinion turned in its favour. The posters in the shops all claimed to have made the change ‘because we care about the environment’, not because government had told them to. All the tiny independent shops in my town have also followed suit. Clearly it’s not because they had to, and its not because it saves them money in not having to buy the bags. It’s because they care about our world.

I wish.

How Small is too Small?

I find the most hilarious move is eradicating the humble plastic straw. Now again, I’ve long used those reusable ones, and only really bought the others for craft with the children. I’m not against removing a pointless plastic straw when there are greener alternatives. But take this example. I was recently in a supermarket café in the UK. I was queuing to get a soft drink for my son and a cup of tea for myself. We were sitting inside the café. My tea was to come in a cup and saucer made of pottery. As you would expect. My son’s drink? Well. There was the obligatory sign advising that the supermarket was concerned about the environment. As a consequence it was only providing paper straws and would only sell paper ones in the store. Great. What does his drink come in? That he’ll sit at a table to drink? A disposable plastic cup. Not a reusable plastic one, not a glass or a tumbler. No choice, a flimsy plastic cup.

Some of you will try to claim these are recyclable. They are. I don’t believe that the store will do that. I saw them being thrown away into bins. Why can’t they really recycle them by providing real drinking cups? Let me guess. This is cheaper.

I was in Singapore recently and there it was even worse. They encourage you to ditch the straw then continue to put your disposable cup inside a purpose-made disposable plastic bag designed for carrying a drink cup. I was walking from the counter to a table. About ten yards. If that. I protested every time this happened to only be ignored and told that “this is how it is here.” I had to virtually shove my own shopping bags into people in supermarkets in my attempts to not be given more disposable bags. You literally could not make it up.

But don’t worry. They got rid of the straws.

But How?

In summary it’s not that I don’t agree removing plastic is a great thing, but I’d rather we try to change our shopping habits and lobby the major supermarkets to remove the huge amounts of plastic wrap that they use every day. How do you change it? I’m not sure, but couldn’t we return to the time when you had counters with real people? You’d tell them what you wanted then they’d wrap it in paper and give it to you. It’s certainly not as convenient, fast or cheap, but if we’re serious about not destroying the very planet on which we rely for everything, we have to make changes now. It’s always astounded me that we’re destroying our own home and in turn ourselves to ensure convenience and save money. There’ll be nothing left if we don’t make changes. And I’d like to start with those disposable cups and carry-bags in the café.

You couldn't make it up. Well you could, but I didn't.


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coloured plastic straws.

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