THE EYE # plastic free people

It seems that Coca-Cola bottles are enjoying more time at the beach than the rest of us hard-working folk. It’s not surprising Coke bottles are the number one fiend found during beach cleans when this plastic fantastic business manufacture over 110 billion plastic bottles each year. Going plastic free is not an easy task.

For all you superheroes reducing and refusing plastic you’ll know it’s harder than impossible to remove it from your lifestyle. I’ve tried it all. I’ve sought inspiration through Twitter and Facebook groups, searched out zero waste shops, shopped at online plastic-free websites and attended local plastic-free meetings, bought a bread maker, and summoned up the energy and time to ask the manager at M&S if they could supply apples not wrapped in plastic. And yet the tidal wave of plastic being delivered to my doorstep still feels unstoppable, even my innocent cup of tea has plastic smuggled in the teabag seal.

I tried Greenpeace’s challenge. How long can you last before you use plastic?
a) half an hour b) an hour c) 24 hours
By my reckoning it was two hours till lunch, I was working at home, surely I could last an hour? But after a measly 28 mins I was defeated by an innocent looking bar of chocolate in a cardboard box harbouring an undetectable plastic sleeve inside.

Putney boat race reusable cups

Putney residents were outraged when Coco-Cola, sponsors of the Boat Race, handed out thousands of free plastic bottles of water alongside the banks of the Thames in April. These plastic bottles inevitably end up washing down river out to sea and spend the rest of their life holidaying on an idyllic Pacific beach paradise. And if that’s not annoying enough, their life on this planet will far out live ours.

Positively Putney Business Improvement District (BID) has been working hard to eliminate single-use plastics from the event. 250,000 visitors line the banks of the Thames to watch Oxford and Cambridge battle it out. Putney BID succeeded in preventing Coca-Cola from handing out free drinks on the Putney side and also ordered 14,000 reusable cups ordered for Putney’s pubs. Executive Director, Nicola Grant said “If they are each used just a few times, we could easily prevent 50,000 single use plastics ending up in the river or landfill, in just one day”. They have shown how it’s possible to turn the tide on single-plastic usage and this year, many large scale events are following suit.

As individuals it’s hard for us to make multinationals change their bad habits but groups such as Greenpeace and Surfers against Sewage are turning the tide, harnessing frustrations by organising beach and river cleans, demonstrating the collective power of individuals.

Locally, every one of our neighbourhoods has an active plastic-free group fighting the onslaught of single-use plastics and coffee cups. We can make a difference by getting involved, volunteering a few hours to litter pick, take part in some campaigning or speaking to local businesses, shops and cafes. New farmers markets have popped up locally and are a double whammy for reducing our plastic usage and travel miles. In the last few months, both Wimbledon Village and Southfields launched new farmers markets and are proving to be exceptionally popular, as well as the much-loved Barnes and Wimbledon Park farmers markets. You’ll find a complete guide to local markets on our shiny new website.

We love supporting our local independents, who are usually happy to accommodate customers who bring their own containers. I realised I needed to up my game when the local butcher told me one customer brings a dinner plate to take home his steaks. And finally, zero waste shops are coming to all corners of south west London. After masses of support and crowd-funding, Zero opened at Merton Abbey Mills this year. I’d love to hear how you’ve managed to reduce plastic, and if you’ve discovered any local businesses offering compostable coffee cups, straws made from pasta or any other plastic-busting service – let us know and we’ll give them a shout out on social media this month.

This month our team is attempting… #plasticfreetuesdays

Join us on twitter to catch up on our plastic-free successes and failures.
@PlasticFreeSW15 @PlasticFreeWim @NoplasticWands @PlasticFreeSW13 @ZeroShopLondon

Lucy Kane,
MD, Time & Leisure magazine
Follow me on twitter: @lucykane