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  • Writer's pictureEllen Worrell

#Write52 week 3: War on Plastic

Having lived and worked in several different countries, I can safely say that the BBC offers some of the very best television viewing in the world - as an aside, I'm LOVING the live coverage of the Netball World Cup, and as an even further aside, Years and Years is utterly unmissable. Emma Thompson and Anne Reid were sublime. Terrifying(ly accurate?) but sublime. Anyway, back to this week's topic: War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita.

June 2019 saw prime-time BBC1 come out all guns blazing and hit us with 3 episodes about single-use plastic, hosted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani. I wasn't previously much of a fan of Hugh's, but having watched him scale mountains of plastic "recycling" we have shipped off to Malaysia, he's gone up in my estimation.

Copyright: BBC

I'll admit I watched a large proportion of the programme feeling slightly smug - particularly episode 2 that homed in on wet wipes at one point - since we've already made many of the changes suggested. However, I was beyond frustrated to see quite how many people buy things in unnecessary plastic, particularly food, simply because it's convenient. One example: cheese.

One lady was buying 20g portions of Cheddar cheese, each individually wrapped in single-use plastic, since she claimed it helped with portion control. Since when did our lives get too busy to cut a piece of cheese from a bigger block?! And indeed, why do the supermarkets/cheese manufacturers/middle(wo)men feel it's OK to add to the unnecessary plastic mountain? Oh I know: profit. Doing some research on a well-known supermarket's website (four letters, beginning and ending in A), buying a 5-pack of 20g portions of own-brand Cheddar will set you back the equivalent of £10/kg, whereas a 750g block is equivalent to £4.87/kg. It's an utterly eye-watering profit margin. Yet we've been sold the idea that having these tiny pieces of cheese individually wrapped for us is a *good* thing and we *need* them in our lives. But we don't. We really, really don't.

It was heartening to see how those participating in the programme were able to make a few simple swaps here and there, and dramatically cut down on the single-use plastic they had at home. But the programme highlighted many of the frustrations I have faced thus far, especially when it comes to buying loose fruit and veg which is far more expensive than the stuff that has already been pre-packaged. Again, looking at you *cough* Asda *cough*: loose carrots cost 65p/kg but pre-packaged are only 60p/kg. Five pence may not make a huge difference on carrots alone, but it all adds up if everything is more expensive simply because it doesn't come in plastic packaging. More on this in another post, though.

Again, the programme reinforced my belief that we don't need a few people doing it perfectly, we need lots of people doing it imperfectly. If you've not seen it yet, I'd urge you to sit down and watch it - it's certainly spurred me on to make even more changes!

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