It’s polluting our oceans and killing our wildlife, but how easy is it to get by without it? Four writers find out.
No man is an island. However, if I were an island, I’d probably be the best one ever. When the Guardian asked me to record all the single-use plastic I got through in a week, I scoffed. Piece of cake, I thought.
I work from home, so I never use coffee shop cups. I have a reusable metal water bottle that I carry around in lieu of disposable plastic ones. I make my own soup for lunch each week and store it in reusable pouches. I get most of my meat from the independent butcher down the road. If it wasn’t for my reliance on gelatinous stock pots when I’m cooking, I’d barely use any single-use plastic at all. What an island I’d be. The greatest.
But I’m not an island. I have a wife and two kids under the age of three. My wife has a fiendish sparkling water habit and gets through several two-litre bottles a week. My toddler is an unquenchable soft-fruit fanatic and ploughs through punnets of berries like they’re going out of fashion. And the number of nappies we get through is astonishing. Conservatively, I’d say we use about 60 a week (the two-year-old is potty training), but the five-month-old has been poorly lately so, frankly, all bets are off.
“You know, if Henry VIII had worn disposable nappies, they’d still be in a landfill now,” says Rachelle Strauss of Zero Waste Week, an organisation that encourages households and businesses to produce less waste. She has kindly agreed to be my guru for the week. And, while this did make me briefly entertain the idea of Jurassic Parking a new Henry VIII out of his ancient bum DNA, the permanence shocked me. Three billion nappies are sold in the UK every year, and they’re all getting lobbed into holes.
Pick your battles. What are the things that make you think, ‘OK, I can do without that’
Strauss is brilliantly unmilitant about waste reduction.