How YOU can win the ‘War on Plastic’

Monstrous: Human beings have created mountains of plastic waste with an increasingly throwaway society in which it is easier to enjoy products wrapped in single-use plastic than it is to respect the environment. That needs to change – and people are getting to grips with that necessity.

“I didn’t know THAT was going on!” or “I never knew you could do that HERE.”

It seems those are the two phrases that are holding back efforts to win the so-called “War on Plastic” – people don’t know what alternatives to our wrap-it-in-plastic, use-it-once-then-throw-it-away society are available.

It turns out there may be more than you think.

I’m starting this page after attending an evening meeting in my home town, here in Mid Wales. Initially, the plan is to list the initiatives that are happening here and request that readers get in touch with details of what’s happening elsewhere – not just in the UK but around the world.

I don’t have any grand desire to run the definitive catalogue on this subject, but I would like to do my bit to help – and I hope this will encourage you to do the same.

Here’s what I discovered at the meeting:

It’s really hard work finding alternatives to using plastic! But it is possible.

And if you’re familiar with the phrase, “Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle” it seems everybody is now so good at recycling that facilities can’t cope – so the focus must shift to reducing the creation of plastic and re-using the plastic we have already.

So, here’s what is going on in my home town to reduce, re-use and recycle not just plastic but other materials too:

Reduce:

A local shop, Van’s Good Food, will refill empty plastic containers with a vast number of foodstuffs – so large that I was not able to take note of the list. It is also possible to buy food that would normally be wrapped in plastic there, unwrapped.

Sugar & Spice, a cafe and bistro in Llandrindod Wells, supplies boxes of locally-produced food and vegetables, delivered to the buyer’s door, via sister firm La Vida Verde. This enterprise now has more than 20 local growers supplying the bistro and is committed to encouraging local growers, paying a good price for produce, and supplying local food to local communities at an affordable price. This is also handy for supplying vegetables that you can’t buy individually at a supermarket but only in multiples, in a plastic bag.

Also at Sugar & Spice, customers can bring their own containers for a lunchtime takeaway.

Another local initiative is Mama’s Moon Pads: These are cloth menstrual pads, to reduce the strain on the environment caused by throwaway items. Details are available here.

Powys County Council runs a real nappy scheme. This means the council is actually giving money away – up to £100 – to parents who use the cash to buy re-usable nappies; they buy the products, keep the receipt, and take it to the council for a refund of the money.

Refill is an international project in which local businesses sign up to be a water re-filling station. In Llandrindod Wells, eight businesses are taking part, and there are others nearby. You can find out if any businesses in your area have signed up by checking the website.

Re-Use:

If you’ve got something you don’t want any more that is simply too good to throw away, Freegle is for you. Freegle will find someone to take it. Conversely, if you are looking for something, Freegle will pair you with someone giving it away. “It’s like online dating for stuff,” claims the website, which you may find here. To find your local Freegle website, search here. There’s an app for mobile phones, and apparently the motto is “Trash nothing!” – to keep useful items out of landfill.

You can sell plastic products (that warrant such re-use) on Facebook Marketplace. Alternatively, local charity shops are handy. In Llandrindod Wells, there’s the Cefnllys Charity Shop, which local organisations can book for set periods of time, benefiting both themselves and the charity that runs the shop.

Olio is a mobile phone app, like Freegle, but for food. If you buy food that, for one reason or another, you don’t intend to use – or you’ve made preserves and want to give them away but don’t know anybody to give them, don’t throw these items away – put them on Olio. Find out more on the website.

Clothes-swap events are cropping up, to which people bring clothes that don’t fit them – and pick up clothes that do. Some people run clothes-swap parties between friends.

And you can always put unwanted but usable items outside your house with a sign saying “Take what you want”.

Recycle:

Powys County Council has revealed where plastic and metal waste collected within the county goes. After the BBC’s War on Plastic documentary, which showed horrifying evidence of UK plastics being transported abroad to pollute other countries, the council put a statement on its website. This states that most kerbside waste is recycled in the UK – 80 per cent of it in 2018-19. Only two per cent is rejected and goes into landfill. The remainder – 18 per cent – is used as solid plastic fuel. None of our kerbside recycling material is sent to Asia. Soft plastic isn’t recycled by the county council because there are limited outlets to sell plastic film and sorting it from the rest is very costly. However, another local organisation has the necessary facilities, it seems.

In Llandrindod Wells, a huge amount of work is being done at the local Tesco supermarket. There are recycling bins close to the entrance that take all plastic that can’t be recycled in the regular council waste/recycling pickup – carrier bags and also soft, unrecyclable stuff that the council stopped taking. It must be packed all into one bag, packed together. These plastics are turned into Tesco ‘bags for life’ which are sold for 10p each – and this money goes into the ‘Bags of Help’ fund, which provides support for local organisations. The conversion is done in the UK by a reputable firm.

Staff are campaigning for other Tesco eco-schemes to come to the Llandrindod Wells store.

Nationally, magazine publishers are being encouraged to send their subscriptions out in recyclable plastic envelopes.

It is possible to convert plastic back into the raw materials from which it was made. Some companies are turning it into fuel, and it can also produce other industrial chemicals.

We also have ongoing schemes, courtesy of the local Transition Town initiative:

1. Repair Cafe.

This is a free venue where people may bring any broken item and try to get it fixed. It works on donations and volunteers; a pool of “fixperts”, skilled in matters relating to anything from textiles to electricity. In Llandrindod Wells, Powys, it runs at Celf o Gwmpas on the second Saturday of every month between 2-5pm.

2. Morsbags – guerrilla bagging.

These are bags made of old bedsheets or curtains, intended to replace plastic bags when you go shopping. Volunteers are given fabric and make the bags, which they then give away for free. Further details are available here. In Llandrindod Wells, the initiative is overseen by Trawsnewid Llandrindod Transition.

3. Pomarium.

Also overseen by Trawsnewid Llandrindod Transition is a community orchard. All the trees were donated or sponsored by local businesses, groups or individuals. The Bags of Help scheme run by Tesco has provided generous funding so organisers are keen to hear from local people with ideas for courses to be run there; so far there have been courses in scything and pruning. Oh, and one or two wassails.

4. Hearts and Minds.

This is probably unique to Llandrindod Wells, and is an attempt to engage with the wider community, starting with a conference in October 2019. The focus will be on the Welsh Assembly Government’s declaration of a climate emergency and the need to respond to it. The importance of land, farmers and farming is emerging. Local people are being invited to answer a questionnaire on how the emergence of climate change is affecting them.

That’s what’s happening here – so far. But what else is going on?

The above is not an exhaustive list of initiatives to change the way we work, reducing, re-using and recycling plastic and other materials to improve our environment.

If you know of something else that’s going on – let me know via This Site’s comment column. And that’s not just here in Mid Wales. I want to know what people are doing across the world.

It occurs to me that it is only by sharing our experience and expertise that we can expand workable schemes across the globe and build up a way of life that works within our environmental means to eliminate the waste that is clagging up our countries and choking our oceans.

Over to you.


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