LETTER: Passing the buck on plastic

Plastic packaging of every kind is not only bad for the environment but it is also known to be carcinogenic and detrimental to human health, the well-being of animals in the wild and all creatures in our oceans.

With the huge surge of media attention now aptly given to the growing abundance of plastic waste in our world, I felt compelled to watch screening of the film ‘Plastic Ocean’ recently shown at Depot Cinema in Lewes. Just as expected, I found it overwhelmingly disturbing.

Plastic refuse is undoubtedly one of the biggest problems our world faces today. As responsible shoppers and consumers we are continually reminded to recycle and dispose of our plastic waste in a responsible way.

What the majority of us have not yet grasped is that as ‘end users’ we are caught in the middle of a colossal global problem that is not of our making. As individuals our attempts to clean-up will make no difference – it’s now far, far too big for that.

Of course this is a problem that concerns us all but the very root of the problem lies at the top. So we should now be asking ourselves, ‘where do all these plastics actually come from?’

The first major problem lies at the top of the supply chain starting with the manufacturers and then the marketing outlets such as supermarkets. We have all seen the small print on the sides of cans, plastic bottles and protective packaging of all kinds which ask us as consumers to ‘Recycle’ or dispose of their engineered waste ‘responsibly’.

Over the years, the responsibility of recycling has been increasingly forced upon us, but essentially this giant problem is of their making. We, the public, should begin to recognise that it is the providers who have the prime responsibility to NOT market drinks, food products and other items wrapped in plastic in the first place. Instead, they absolve all responsibility and now hoodwink the end users into accepting responsibility for being sensible disposers – yes, that’s us! They are passing the buck and it’s entirely wrong.

The second major problem is of recycling and local refuse collection. How can we the public responsibly get rid of our plastic waste when we are continually let down? Lewes District Council very recently announced a new recycling scheme to all households: ‘We are making it easier for residents to recycle by introducing a single wheelie bin for all your paper, plastics, cans, cardboard and glass. This new approach to recycling in the district will mean more is recycled and that’s good for the environment.’

So the council’s new approach is to simply throw it all together! Astounding! Is that efficient recycling?

Our local councils are now also absolving themselves of this growing concern but we continue to be encouraged to believe that the enormity of the problem is ours and ours alone! Wrong!

Recycling schemes by the council are half-hearted and barely work. Visual evidence indicates that much of the plastic we imagine is being properly recycled actually ends up in landfill, on the verges of our roads, in our rivers, on our beaches and in our sea.

Local councils need to be brought into this equation, held to account and expected to perform a great deal better. We vote them in and if they don’t perform we can vote them out.

With intentions for ‘a plastic-free Lewes’ which is a great and optimistic initiative, do we mean less plastic on our streets or less plastic in our supermarkets? The only way to have less plastic on our streets is for supermarkets to remove plastic packaging from their shelves.

The public have, until now, had no say in how the produce we purchase is packaged. That decision is implemented at the very top of the supply chain, then marketed and sold on. To pass the responsibility on to the end user is fundamentally wrong!

Complaints from lone individuals go unheard and make no impact, but together, and if united, we have combined strength and can make a positive difference. The new Green Councillor, Chelsea Renton, has suggested the deployment of ‘Unwraptheplastic’ stands to be placed outside the supermarkets which sell the produce ‘we’ buy on a daily basis. A very good idea.

The supermarkets and other suppliers we use need to be told that we no longer want and will not accept plastic wrapping or packaging of any kind. Our health and the environment in which we live is at stake – the state of our world is now critical.

Crispin Rose-Innes

The Lay, Beddingham