What can we all do to reduce plastic pollution?
Public concern about the problem – brought into sharp focus by David Attenborough’s BBC documentary series Blue Planet II – was demonstrated by a high turn out for the first One Planet York ‘Mingle’ of 2018, which was on the issue of plastics.
The event, co-hosted by Planet South Bank and St Nicks Environment Centre, was held on Wednesday 17 January at Forty Five Vinyl Café in Micklegate, York. Over 50 people attended the event, many of whom had not previously attended previous One Planet York socials or ‘Mingles’ as the monthly get-togethers are called.
The evening was introduced by Paul McCabe of City of York Council, who spoke about One Planet York and its themes, one of which is an ambition to achieve zero waste.
Kate Lock, Chair of Planet South Bank, then outlined the current international, national and commercial context on policies and action on plastics. “The bad news is that, if we carry on behaving the way we are now, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea,” she said.
“The good news is that people are waking up to this and public concern is pushing policymakers and businesses to take action – although the pace is still way too slow.”
Read Kate’ round up on the National context (which has links to reports and further information).
Sam Taylor, Recycling Co-ordinator at St Nicks, explained the local context in York, which currently only recycles plastic bottles in the council’s kerbside collection. Many people are still depositing other types of plastic in the kerbside boxes, which are then contaminating the loads and could potentially cause them to be landfilled instead of recycled. Sam has written a blog on plastics recycling in York, explaining what can and can’t be recycled (and why), and she has also produced a very useful infographic guide (see previous post).
Councillor Andrew Waller, City of York Council Executive Member for the Environment, also attended the event and spoke about the challenges faced by the council with plastic waste, especially now that China is no longer taking UK recycling.
Rich Hearn of Planet South Bank spoke about our plans – still at a very early stage – for working with the Bishy Road Traders and other local organisations to introduce free Terracycle drop boxes for certain products. St Nicks has some Terracycle boxes already (for some coffee pods, pens, and other items) so we hope to co-ordinate collection in York with them.
As well as Terracycle boxes, Planet South Bank also plans to conduct an audit of plastic use/products in local shops and cafes and will work with traders to reduce these and/or find alternatives.
Kate Lock drew attention to a recent amendment put to City of York Council by Green Party councillor Andy D’Agorne, proposing a ‘YorCup’ along the lines of the successful Freiburg Cup which can be returned and reused through a network of over 100 shops in the German city. John Mcgall of local company i am reusable demonstrated a green plastic cup the company has produced, sales of which also provide for hot drinks for the homeless.
Finally, Paul McCabe invited John King to read an “prose-press release” Plastic Weekend for the One Planet York event, which John had sent us after he composed it for a creative writing course exercise, which references the shocking Blue Planet II sequence with a whale calf poisoned by plastics.
After the speakers, the event turned to socialising and a chance to meet and talk to other people and exchange ideas. Some of the proposals included:
- a cultural event (performance, music, poetry, etc) to raise awareness of the issue
- a follow up public meeting/workshop to go over the issues in more detail and explore local solutions
- setting up a Facebook or other such group where information about how to reduce your plastic use can be shared, especially with reference to shops/businesses that offer alternatives/no packaging
- a large scale art/activism event to raise awareness
All the suggestions will be collated and captured by St Nicks and we will share them here in due course. In the short term, the Facebook event page can be used to post links and suggestions.