Do not shoot plastic. It is not guilty!

Our Chairman, Mike Golding, wrote an open letter to the Shropshire Star Newspaper which was printed in the newspaper on 29th January 2017.

“It is frequently opined that the world is only 4 days away from anarchy if the veneer of civilisation that the human race has so carefully constructed for itself over the last few hundred years is shattered by some earth altering event; nuclear war, meteor strike or perhaps one of the pillars of our lives was hypothetically removed such as electricity or, perhaps even the internet.

Can I add to that hypothetical list, plastic. Not only is it essential for the delivery of electricity and the internet due to its insulation properties but it ensures the hygienic delivery of medicines and clean water, either by bottle or pipe. The long list would fill the newspaper.

Plastic is vital for all our lives so why has it come is for such recent bad publicity and why have successive governments made some dreadful decisions about it and potentially about to make some more.

In a nutshell the problem is the presence of human food and drink packaging carelessly discarded that then ends up being in our faces and it isn’t pretty.

The first poor decision which is still the subject of much misplaced self gratulation is the practical disappearance of single use carrier bags from supermarkets and their substitution with what are loosely called “bags for life”.

Back in 2011 after 5 years research into the subject the Environment Agency published a study, catchily called: Life Cycle Assessment of Supermarket Carrier Bags SC030148. Google for a copy.

The key conclusion that is worth picking out is that at best, a woven cotton carrier bag would have, at least to do 173 use cycles to have a lower environmental impact than the that of a single use High Density Polythene (HDPE) bag in its typical lifecycle. Not to mention that the HDPE bag is recyclable and the cotton bag for life is not, because actually apart from anything else, the bags for life all have a plastic lining to ensure that any liquid that leaks in the shopping doesn’t soil the consumers nice car seat.

Unfortunately, the chatteratti had built up such a head of steam over the plan and the scientists who front the television medias more popular discussion programmes and who carry more weight than real scientists had got so behind it that the report got buried. As a result we now either pay 5p for our sins or send to land fill our bags for life when the seams split or the handle comes off way before its 173rd use. Brilliant.

This is an extremely controversial point of view I know and I grant you that the chance of finding a cheap poly bag blowing in the wind is reduced but causing greater environmental damage was not the answer my friend.

The problem was that the consumer, yes you, either did not know or did not care enough to ensure that the HDPE bags get recycled properly. Much plastic film including carrier bags is not marked with recycling information or if it is then it frequently says, “Not currently recycled”. That doesn’t mean it can’t be, it just means that nobody has provided the facilities. Did you know for instance that an HDPE carrier bag is made of the same material as a plastic milk bottle and just by popping the bag in your milk bottle it can happily be recycled with no effort and no chance of it ending up in a whale?

This brings me to the current piece of nonsense that is building up a head of steam. Plastic free aisles in supermarkets.

These aisles in the mind of the backers are produce aisles so that we can all pick our own and reduce the use of packaging.

It is an absolute responsibility of the retailers to ensure that the food that they deliver to their stores is uncontaminated so even bulk produce like carrots or potatoes have to be pre packed to get through their supply chain, and the loose product you see in store arrives there in a large heavy plastic bag which is split for display and discarded when empty and when the consumer chooses his quantity he puts it and weighs it in another plastic bag because they don’t want it contaminating their other groceries. Twice as much plastic then. Check out this truth on your next visit.

To make it worse all unpacked produce degrades more quickly when allowed to breath at will in ambient conditions. Pre-packed produce is put in plastics scientifically engineered to control its breathing rate which is why today you have salad that last days in sealed bags; its why you have blueberries in January and it why you have leaf spinach at all.

Un packed produce significantly increases food waste.

Please stop this bandwagon right now.

Mike Golding, Chairman, TCL Packaging Limited.”

Read the full article on the Shropshire Star website here.

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