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The last straw

A straw will be used for about five minutes and will then hang around for most of eternity.
From the end of this year, drinkers in Wetherspoon’s will have to do without plastic straws as the cheap (and occasionally cheerful) high-street pub chain does its bit to tackle the problem of global plastic pollution.

Following on the heels of companies such as Tesco, which last month announced it would stop selling its 5p single-use plastic bags, Wetherspoon’s senses the tide is turning against unnecessary plastics and claims that the move will stop 70m plastic straws finding their way into landfill or the world’s oceans every year.

But much more needs to be done. Scientists warn that plastic pollution risks near–permanent contamination of the planet. This bleak prediction is borne out as news emerges, seemingly every week, that plastic is already finding its way into anything and everything – from fish to tap water to salt.

Since the 1950s, humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes of plastic – equivalent in weight to one billion elephants – and it will last for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Plastic has undoubtedly brought some benefits, but much of it is pure indulgence and scientists warn that its prevalence – in everything from teabags to clothes – is destroying our oceans and having unknown health consequences for humans and wildlife.

The answer then is to rage against this stupidity with every (natural) fibre of your being until politicians and corporations are forced to change course.

To get you up and running, here are a few practical first steps.

Say goodbye to bottled water. A million plastic bottles of water are bought around the world every minute – most of which end up in landfill or the oceans. By 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Buy a reusable water bottle. Fill it up from a tap.

Take your own cutlery. If you are going to pop out for a takeaway meal or a soup at lunchtime, don’t use a plastic knife, fork or spoon. Bring your own from the cutlery draw at home. (You may get a few odd looks, but don’t worry; you are right and they are wrong.)

Take your own mug. If you are getting coffee on the go, bring your own cup (fancy reusable ones are available but a mug from home will suffice – especially if you are not planning on drinking and walking at the same time).

Use your own, non-plastic bags when shopping. Avoid buying products with excessive plastic packaging. Some plastic-free shops are springing up in the UK, but in the meantime, retailers wanting to surf the plastic-free tide might consider ditching other superfluous plastic items, from coffee stirrers to plastic-wrapped bananas and single-portion coffee pods.

Ditch the shower gels and shampoos. Perfectly good soap and shampoo bars are available wrapped in paper.

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