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NICKY MARR: Plastic is an environmental challenge

By Nicky Marr

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64 plastic bottles, the amount used by the average family in a month. Picture: Callum Mackay. Image No.
64 plastic bottles, the amount used by the average family in a month. Picture: Callum Mackay. Image No.

You don’t need me to tell you about the impact that plastic has on our environment.

From marine and soil pollution to the fossil fuels needed to produce the stuff, our over-reliance on it is an environmental disaster.

Some plastics are brilliant, of course, and have improved our lives for the better. It’s the unnecessary, single use stuff that’s problematic. Thoughtlessly (or even carefully) discarded, it hangs around for centuries. We need to rethink.

By the time Radio Scotland phoned me at 11am on Monday I’d already used dozens of bits of plastic that day. There was the first plastic I reach for on waking – my inhaler – and the plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, face creams and body lotion. And all before I even switched on the kettle.

My morning cuppa was deliberately from a plastic-free teabag (check your brand, you might be horrified!). But I added milk from a plastic carton and unwrapped a loaf from a plastic bag. Only my banana was in plastic-free packaging. Going plastic-free for a week was going to be a real challenge.

But ‘plastic-free’ wasn’t actually the goal. My challenge, from environmental scientist and waste-reduction blogger ‘Less Waste Laura’, was to cut down on the amount of unnecessary single use plastic that I use, and to make switches, as and when my current products run out, to plastic-free alternatives. The plastic that we – rightly – bag and bin after twice-weekly lateral flow tests, is unavoidable, and therefore excusable. The tight layer of plastic round the cauliflower from the supermarket is nonsense.

Nicky Marr - coach/writer/broadcaster...Picture: Callum Mackay..
Nicky Marr - coach/writer/broadcaster...Picture: Callum Mackay..

But why bother? As Laura explained to me, 80 per cent of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from the products, goods, and services we consume, often just once, then throw away. We now produce more emissions from burning waste than burning coal. So, it’s about more than just waste, it impacts hugely on climate change too.

Reducing plastic consumption is not about us making massive changes all at once, but about making small, manageable swaps. Instead of buying plastic wrapped food, toiletries, and cleaning products, are there loose, glass, tin, or cardboard-wrapped options instead? Could I get milk delivered to my doorstep in glass bottles? Use a farm shop instead of the supermarket? Buy drinks in cans instead of plastic bottles?

So, I have accepted the challenge. Instead of plastic sponges for the dishes, compostable versions made from loofah are on their way. I’ve bought my last plastic-wrapped packet of tissues and will instead use white cotton hankies which – pleasingly – remind me of my papa.

And I’ve switched from plastic deodorant bottles to one in an aluminium case that takes cardboard refills – they smell divine!

Even switching to beeswax wraps and plastic-free detergents, I’m barely making a dent in the world’s over-reliance on plastic. But thanks to Laura I’m making more of an effort, and there are several fewer bits of plastic being discarded each week. What impact could we collectively make?

Read more from Nicky Marr here.

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