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The longer I go plastic-free, the more I am shocked by our attitude to waste

In the third part of her diary about the challenges of giving up single-use plastic for Lent, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP sees florists in a different light and gets an unwanted package

Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Monday 19 March 2018 16:24 GMT
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A home delivery from Tesco included a dismaying number of plastic bags
A home delivery from Tesco included a dismaying number of plastic bags (Anne-Marie Trevelyan)

Easter is getting closer. In fact, it is only a fortnight away – even if the recent snow makes it feel like the middle of winter.

At the moment, special events have rarely seemed less pleasurable. Thanks to my decision to give up single-use plastic for Lent, I’m suddenly conscious of all the plastic which goes around the lovely flowers delivered to me on Mother’s Day, and the endless packaging, plastic and otherwise which seems to bedeck almost all Easter eggs.

Our household is going to have to be a “chocolate eggs in foil only” experience this year – at least proving that it doesn’t have to be all bad, this giving up plastic challenge!

It has made me wonder though, do florists really need to be using miles and miles of plastic when they wrap their beautiful bouquets? After all, there were flower sellers around before plastic became ubiquitous.

And for that matter, why do drycleaners not all issue us with a cloth suit bag to put our cleaned suits and dresses in, rather than enveloping every item in six feet of single-use, non-biodegradable plastic wrapping? Maybe this – like coffee cups – is an area where a plastic levy could be considered.

What do people think of Starbucks charging 5p for coffee cups?

I had a bit of a meltdown this weekend – and not because of Brexit or Russian aggression, though those two big issues fill much of my working day. Rather, it was because when my Tesco delivery arrived at my home on Friday night, I discovered that my fruit and vegetables had been put into plastic bags before being put into paper bags. Honestly, there are moments when life should not be so irritatingly difficult!

I was shocked to read this week that not only are we poisoning our planet with plastics, we also seem to have developed a bad habit of throwing tonnes of clothes into landfill which could be recycled or rehomed.

As a child growing up with my mum, we didn’t have spare cash for many new clothes, and Saturday morning was often an adventure as we headed to a church jumble sale somewhere to find some new clothes. It never crossed my mind that this was anything other than an efficient use of clothing made once and worn by several. One of my favourite tops came from the Richmond church jumble.

The cheap thrill of novelty doesn’t need to stem from the one-time-wear-and-throw-away frock purchased online with barely a thought. In truth, we need to return to understanding the whole value of our spending – and the cost of not considering our disposal attitude. This, I’m beginning to realise, applies to more than just the obvious scourge of plastic.

As a good traditional Tory girl, I believe that life should be a balance of rights and responsibilities. It feels like the pendulum has swung too far towards what we believe to be our rights; and away from personal responsibility.

If we take some time to think about our day-to-day actions a bit more carefully, we can all do our bit to restore the balance – in terms of both personal and corporate responsibility.

And when faced with a choice between what’s easy and what’s right, we can consider our kids’ future world as the motivator for self-control.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan is MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed and permanent parliamentary secretary to the ministerial team, Ministry of Defence

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