Thrifty Living: Life in plastic is no longer fantastic but is paper the way forward?

We all need to think about ways to reduce plastic waste, but all types of over-consumption come at a

We all need to think about ways to reduce plastic waste, but all types of over-consumption come at a cost. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

I recently wrote about our damaging love affair with plastic.

I don’t know if he’d read my column, but days later Iceland supermarket managing director Richard Walker announced the company would eliminate own-brand plastic packaging within five years, the first major retailer to make such a commitment, saying: “A truckload (of plastic) enters our oceans every minute. The onus is on retailers, as leading contributors to plastic packaging pollution and waste, to deliver meaningful change.”

Soon afterwards, the Prime Minister declared war on plastics too. The government hopes to eliminate “all avoidable plastic waste” within 25 years.

Let’s hope ministers deliver, though I can’t help thinking the use of the word “avoidable” might be designed to give them wriggle room.

Anyway, my column prompted Roger Sykes, of Earl Soham, to write in about his own efforts to cut plastic waste.

“Sainsbury’s and maybe other supermarkets, will accept at the check-out items such as (loose) sprouts and carrots in your own paper bag, so long as the contents are visible when paying,” he wrote. “These paper bags are readily available online and cheap, in large size packs. We already repack vegetables from plastic bags before putting them in the fridge so I thought, why not put them in paper bags at the time of selection?”

That’s certainly one way to cut plastic use. But the issue is complex.

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For instance, paper production apparently emits 70% more pollution than plastic bag production and recycling paper can consume more fuel than it would take to make a new bag, although plastic bags create four times the solid waste and can last up to a thousand years, causing the environmental damage we are all-too aware of.

I favour looking to BBC comedy W1A and its More of Less Initiative for guidance here.

To paraphrase head of output Anna Rampton, the fact is we all need to identify what we overuse and find more ways of using less of it more.

I hope that’s clear. But just in case; to put it another way, cut your consumption and reuse, reuse, reuse (and then recycle).

Send your thrifty tips here.