Written by: Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
Lead from the front! Lovely little cliché that one and usually a very sound notion. But occasionally you have to acknowledge when your team have sprinted several miles ahead and are wondering whether you have the energy to catch up. And that is where I find myself in responding to a challenge thrown down at me by the Chamber’s circular economy team for Plastic Free July. It’s a perfectly simple request; personally avoid all single use plastics for a week. I’ll be doing it in support of our #sendplasticpacking campaign alongside the Chamber’s own action plan to move away from single use plastics.
I’m just doing the research into what’s involved and have a handy briefing note from the team to guide me. I assumed I would find lots of examples of my unconsciously cavalier disregard for the environment and I was right. I did have a little debate with myself about what constitutes single use plastic and decided to just let a day’s worth of activity sort that out. So on my test day earlier this week I came up with the following assessment.
Lunchtime is my first problem because in the absence of a staff restaurant/bistro/canteen I do what everyone else does. I head off to the nearest branded convenience store and get myself a meal deal. Bottled water, little tub of fruit, pack of sandwiches and a packet of crisps. Oh and do I need a bag? Er, yes – do I look like someone who carries a bag with me at work? And would I like a little fork for the fruit? Sure! Well that’s a five a day incidence of single use plastics in one go. So I can see easily how 2 of those, the fork and the bag, can be avoided. I have more work to do on the rest but I suspect that some forward planning is going to be needed.
At home it all gets more challenging yet. Plastic bags for rubbish collection, containers for washing liquids, shower gels, shampoo and toothpaste – how are these avoided? The fridge freezer is full of milk, microwaveable meals (for the nights I get in late of course), yoghurts and plastic fruit containers. Magazines all delivered in polythene covers – is the Chamber magazine distributed like that too? At least the cat food is free of plastics. Oh wait I get that delivered online and the multi-pack comes in a plastic bag too.
I suspect my team have an answer to the whole list and I suspect too that I am about to experience a clash of sustainable values and daily convenience as I learn what each answer involves. A week is probably no great hurdle and I doubt I’ll accept the answers for everything. But I am learning already just how pervasive our plastics culture is. I’ll let you know how the week goes.