So tomorrow is Love Day, you might have gotten the memo? There’s been a few adverts, but nothing too crazy.
I have to say I was a bit overwhelmed walking into Tesco on Friday and seeing aisles of red and pink, cards card and cards, buckets of flowers bursting with blooms, and also lots of shiny reflective things. Oh. Plastic.
Then that got me to thinking, why don’t we use biodegradable plastics for all of this stuff? After a recent trip to France, one supermarket had biodegradable plastic for all it’s fruit and veg bags. Couldn’t we use it too? It’s just there to protect products initially until you buy it, rip it off and chuck it away?
Well. Then I was surprised. Looking into biodegradable plastics further, they are not the one size fits all solution.
Biodegradable plastics can be made from petrochemicals (i.e. oil), or from substances like starch. Biodegradable simply means that the plastic has the potential to be broken down by microorganisms, and degrade at a faster rate than traditional plastics. However, ‘potential’ is the part that’s concerning. These biodegradable plastics often need temperatures of around 50°C in order to degrade. They don’t degrade efficiently in landfills due to the conditions and won’t degrade in the oceans. All of these are concerns which were raised in a United Nations (UN) Report last year (see Guardian interview here).
Taking all this into consideration, they aren’t all bad and shouldn’t be discarded as a potential solution. What should not happen is bioplastics being used to replace all of the plastic that we’re currently using and it should not be hailed as the solution for our plastic problem. The attitude of “chuck it anywhere and it will breakdown naturally” isn’t correct. As with most of this stuff, there should be more guidelines for us consumers on packaging about how to dispose of it correctly; amongst your organic waste so they can be processed appropriately and actually get a chance to degrade.
So this Valentine’s Day, whether you’re treating yourself to a bunch of flowers, buying some for a friend, family and loved ones, why not get a pot plant? They have a lotta love to give over a longer time, and you can re-use the pot once they outgrow it.
You can make an origami cactus! Love without the prickles.
What can I do to get involved?
- I’m a bit of a fan of succulents like aloe vera (as a few of you might know!) – so why not start up your own mini indoor garden? The best thing is you can easily grow others from your mother plant, just pluck off a leaf and pop in soil, then pass them on to friends as a gift!
- Have a 5 minute read up on the difference between degradable plastic, biodegradable plastic and compostable plastic.
- Have a watch of this inspiring TedX talk on bioplastics