Plastic is a fossil-fuel product. We don’t actually feel the real impact of plastic debris here in Muswell Hill but we are certainly consumers of plastic and therefore very much a part of the problem. From the coffee cups (usually lined with plastic) to supermarket packaging almost everything we buy come in, we are contributing to the global problem.
In 2018, MHSG started its local campaign against plastics. Nearly 500 people took our pledge to eliminate one or more single use plastic items – eg straws, cups, disposable cutlery and containers – from their lives, and 10 local businesses signed up to the London Refill campaign.
We will be running the campaign again later in 2020*, focussing on supermarket plastic. Just prior to the COVID 19 lockdown we started posting tickets next to plastic supermarket packaging with slogans reminding consumers about unncecessary plastic packaging. We have found that the local Waitrose and Marks and Spencers particularly guilty here. Our members have written to Marks and spencer challenging the company on this.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get involved!
*(delayed by covid 19 )
The plastic killing fields
In one of the few places on Earth where people can rarely be found, the human race has well and truly made its mark. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies a floating garbage patch twice the size of France. A place where the water is filled with six times as much plastic as plankton. This plastic-plankton soup is entering the food chain and heading for your dinner table.
What you can do about plastic pollution
Here are some steps that you can take to reverse the tide of toxic, non-biodegradable pollution so that it will not overtake our planet ( many of these tips are now well known but we find that more encouragement does not go amiss!)
Get yourself a re-usable coffee cup.
The best ones are made from renewable resources such as bamboo – check out e-Coffee cup.
Get a re-usable water bottle
There are loads around now, including ones that keep your water cool. These ones look great, and if you want to save space many sports retailers will sell collapsible bottles. Look out for Refill stickers on local restaurants – these are restaurants and cafes that welcome people wanting to fill up their water bottles – we’ve signed up many of the local Muswell Hill businesses. This is a campaign that MHSG plans to rejuvenate asap.* Not many Refill stickers have been seen in windows recently ( Feb 2020) Local businesses will be approached again and invited to join the Refil scheme. They will then get a sticker to place in their windows.
*(delayed by Covid 19 )
We approached Haringey Council in 2019 with the idea of having a water fountain in St James’ Square but apparently there are no funds for maintaining such a facility…
Invest in a spork
Instead of taking disposable plastic cutlery when you next get a take-away lunch, buy a reusable spork such as this one.
Think twice about black plastic
The North London Waste Authority (which disposes or recycles waste collected by seven North London boroughs including Haringey) and Haringey Council’s recycling advice does not specifically mention black plastic.
While often technically recyclable we have always thought that pure carbon-black plastic is not picked up by the infrared sorting machines at UK recycling facilities and is rejected. Mixed coloured packaging is OK for sorting but there may be limited markets for this kind of plastic.
Recycle with the council
Check out the Haringey Council website, as what can be recycled changes over time. eg the website now says that plastic bags can be recycled in your green top recycling bin.
Remove lids from plastic bottles before recycling. They are often made from different polymers and on their own they are too small to make it through most recycling sorting machines.
Squash bottles before you put them in recycling
Squash plastic bottles to save space (reducing their carbon footprint) and stop them rolling off the sorting machine conveyor belts.
Recycle at the supermarket
Take recyclable plastic film and leftover carrier bags back to recycling points at big supermarkets.
Buy loose fruit and veg
M & S have started providing paper bags for this but their self service checkouts still make loose veg more time consuming for customers to buy. In Sainsbury’s in Muswell Hill you can purchase a bag for loose fruit and veg for 30p made out of recycled plastic.
The Good News is that so far our research (Feb 2020) finds that loose produce IS cheaper than packaged!
Empty and rinse
If there’s residual food waste left in your recycling, empty it and give it a quick rinse – it keeps the smells at bay!
These are a big no no – some manufacturers have recently started to advertise on their (plastic) packaging that wet wipes are non flushable. This is because they all contain a plastic film inside. A big question we would like to raise with consumers – are these necessary? Can we promote plastic free wipes? Or alternatives?
Bars of shampoo and conditioner are increasingly available but not yet in local supermarkets or pharmacies. Lush and some health food outlets are a good source of these. Planet Organic sell bamboo toothbrushes and other non plastic hygiene products. We plan to campaign for all these non plastic alternatives to be more widely available in Muswell Hill.
This is a challenging one but the non- disposable alternative has improved over recent years.
Find a milkman – who delivers in glass bottles (obviously!) eg Palace Dairies But bear in mind there is an energy demand in the delivery service.
Recent (April 2020) news From the North London Waste Authority’s website:
- 95% of consumers want their local businesses to reduce single-use plastics
- People report feeling worried, frustrated and sad at amount of single-use plastic in shops
In response to consumer demand for less pointless plastic, North London Waste Authority (NLWA) in partnership with the seven north London boroughs, is launching the first ever ‘Low Plastic Zone’, with over three quarters of businesses* in the Cowcross Street area of Islington having successfully, and permanently, reduced the single-use plastic they give to their customers, with many pledging to go further than the Charter of Commitment.
Over the coming weeks ( pre covid19), key shopping areas within Haringey, Camden, Barnet, Enfield, Hackney and Waltham Forest are also expected to reach Low Plastic Zone status.
The Low Plastic Zone initiative aims to encourage and support local businesses of all sizes to reduce the amount of single-use plastic handed to customers who, according to a nationwide survey commissioned by NLWA**, simply don’t want it anymore. 95% of respondents want local businesses to reduce their use of single-use plastic, and 83% have taken steps to reduce their own use.
If more than 50% of the shops in an area are also low-plastic compliant, the area will be certified as Low Plastic Zone.
Plastic in the immediate post COVID 19 era
We anticipate that for a while post Covid there will be some reluctance to return to the gradual move away from single use plastic for hygiene reasons. Plastic is seen as more hygienic and coffee outlets may not wish to use customers’ own cups. Sanitising fluids and wipes will continue to be popular and seen as essential.