About 10 years ago my beloved late sister Emma created an extraordinary plastic relief called Plastic Forever. It was beautiful, white, etched with flowers of all shapes and sizes, and was approximately 3 metres long x 1metre high. Beautiful as it was I remember feeing slightly appalled that Emma seemed to be celebrating the very thing, namely plastic, which has become the mainstay of so many domestic, agricultural and industrial products. Of course Emma explained the irony that her artwork wasn’t celebrating plastic at all, but on the contrary was emphasising the issue that plastic does last forever. However much we need and use this resource to good effect the impact of discarded plastic and the over reliance on single use plastic has become a very real and very distressing concern.
On the North Berwick News and Views Facebook page last week there was a post in relation to plastic left on our beaches and the majority of the blame was apportioned to Costa and North Berwick High School pupils.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I was deeply saddened that Costa came to North Berwick – another local High Street in danger of becoming monopolised and duplicated by global conglomerate chains. On our recent trip to Malaga J and I made a point of not going into any fast food/tea/coffee/ice-cream outlet, preferring instead to take our custom to the local businesses. I imagine that for visitors and tourists seeing a familiar outlet such as Costa or Starbucks can offer a sense of security and comfort but in reality it decreases the opportunity to interact with those on the other side of the counter when the commonality of language is limited to ‘Latte’ or ‘Cappucino’ for example.
The post generated 118 comments of varying degrees of blame and counter – blame, naming, shaming, whinging and cringing, but very few people were actually taking responsibility for their part in the societal culture that demands to have convenience on so many levels.
The greed of the human race is directly to blame for the mess our planet is in.
If there were no demand for raspberries, strawberries or blueberries in the deep dark winter months for example, fresh, ripe and ready to eat, there would be no need to import the goods covered in plastic.
We need to be braver and more creative if we really want to affect change in relation to the use of all plastic, single use or not.
Yes of course global corporations can make steps to increase the use of biodegradable packaging and many are heading in that direction, but we have got to start making a stand. Whenever I go travelling I take my reusable coffee pot with me, not only is it leakproof it keeps coffee hotter for longer and I can be slightly smug that I am not in the long line of single use consumers. I also use beeswax sheets for sandwiches and fruit which are reusable and take up much less room than plastic boxes.
I think it is essential that all communities work together in reducing plastic use and more importantly not becoming bystanders to litter on streets, in the countryside and on beaches. I regularly pick up plastic from the beach when walking Jilly whether it’s a tattered plastic bag, entangled in seaweed that has brightly reflected under the glare of my head torch or a bright orange, red or purple can or bottle brazenly lying in a wide open space, seemingly discarded by a ne’er do well. I used to be a bit embarrassed about being seen to pick up litter but now I don’t care, and will carry the offending articles in a spare bag until I reach a bin. Call me the bag lady if you dare because I won’t care.
We don’t need to bang a drum, make a loud noise on social media sites in the hope that someone else will do the work for us, we all have to be involved by making choices and decisions about how we shop, eat, and live.
There are other extenuating reasons why some plastic and the dreaded chip boxes end up on the beaches of North Berwick and that comes from our feathered friends. Seagulls show no mercy when it comes to the juicy scent of a fish and chip box and will relentlessly peck at the bins until they get their rewards. The bins are inadequate for the most part and there are not nearly enough recycling bins available. Perhaps the likes of Costa could actually sponsor a recycling area near the beach and take responsibility for it?
In the meantime we all just need to do a wee bit more in terms of recycling, reusing and rethinking our reliance on plastic, be proactive in cleaning up the beaches and make it hip to care, cool to be clean and take collective responsibility.