Single Use Plastics in The Countryside

Here at The Hills all of us (myself, my team and Directory members included) feel very passionately about caring for our environment and the planet on which we live. Did you manage to read last week’s blog post on sustainability? I’m still taking part in Plastic Free July, and very much enjoying participating in Jen’s #supschallenge (Action on Single Use Plastics) challenge over at A Sustainable Life and am loving being more present in my recycling and sustainability mission.

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Recently, I have had good friends over to stay from France and it was with pride and so much joy that I showed them around our local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are just 5 in the whole of Wales, and I am very lucky to live within one of them! Because of their special qualities, AONBs have more protection than other areas under the planning process and the quality of their scenery is considered to be equal to that of National Parks. The primary purpose of AONB designation is to conserve and enhance natural beauty – which includes not just the landscape but also flora, fauna and geological features. The Clwydian Range was designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in July 1985 and amazingly was extended in November 2011 to include much of the Dee Valley from Corwen to Newbridge along with stunning natural features such as the Eglwyseg Escarpment, Horseshoe Pass and Esclusham Mountain. At the same time the whole area became known as the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB.

My friends and I swam in endless freshwater lakes, picnicked on rocks overlooking spectacular unspoiled views and even during this summer tourist season, we practically had the countryside to ourselves!

However, and it is a big however, as we explored the hills and valleys and walked along the beautiful beaches, I found myself hastily collecting litter others had carelessly left behind. This ugly blight on perfection was an unfortunate dampener that made me both embarrassed in front of my friends and sad that our AONB was being treated in this way.

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How does this connect to sustainability and Plastic Free July? By now, we all know the horrors of plastic. The way it hangs around without biodegrading for centuries, the way it’s clogging the stomachs of birds, cows and fish, how it creates islands in the ocean for marine life to get stuck in, how it pollutes our riverways and motorways as non-biodegradable rubbish.Yet it’s everywhere. If you want a takeaway coffee, there’s plastic lining in about 99% of disposable cups. If you want a sandwich at a deli, it’s more than likely going to be wrapped in plastic. Even when you’re doing your very best to be healthy, a two litre milk comes in a plastic container and most major supermarkets produce is wrapped or bagged in plastic (theguardian.com).  It's a common fact that if we buy our own reusable drinks bottles we are more likely to bring them home, if paper bags are used more often an accidental litter drop would mean that they would degrade naturally,  whereas our plastic bags will be there for our children’s children’s children to discover hidden in a hedge!

Here in Denbighshire, 64% of waste is already being recycled but the council would like to increase this figure. By reducing black bin collections (household non-recyclables) they are hoping to encourage more people to make use of the recycling bin weekly collections, and be more mindful about what goes in the landfill! Do you live locally? You can take part in their survey here.

Nationally, however, we’re not doing so well. Recycling rates of councils serving 14 million households in England have fallen over five years, analysis by BBC News has found. Half of local authorities recycled a lower proportion of household waste in 2016-17 than in 2011-12 and experts are now warning us that the UK is likely to miss its target of recycling 50% of household rubbish by 2020. Whereas in January, Prime Minister Theresa May said the government's new environmental policy aimed to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042!

The time to act is now if we are going to succeed.

More than 6 out of 10 of us are already refusing plastic shopping bags, avoiding pre-packed fruit and veg, picking up other people's litter and avoiding buying bottled water, but there really must be more we can do. Choosing to be part of the solution, you can act by:

  • Avoiding products in plastic packaging (choose alternatives)

  • Reducing plastics where possible (opt for refills, remember your reusable shopping bags)

  • Refusing plastics that escape as litter (e.g. straws, takeaway cups, utensils, balloons)

  • Recycling what cannot be avoided

Ever wondered where those plastics are sneaking into your life? You may be surprised! By taking the Plastic Free July ‘Pesky Plastics’ Quiz, you can help to research the common plastics that households use, discover for yourself all the plastics that ‘sneak’ into your shopping and set yourself up to measure plastic use and recycling prowess! So pop the kettle on and give it a go!

As I make my own small steps to reduce our household plastic waste, for example my milk is delivered in glass bottles, I take my own tubs to buy meat and fish and buy non plastic wrapped fruit and veg, would you join The Hills and take one step this week towards reducing the plastic that is taking over our planet?

 
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Janet Hill

I’m Janet, and I live at the foot of the beautiful Welsh Hills with my children Mary, 21, and Mark, 17. We share our four-acre plot with our six dogs, six cats, four hens, an assortment of wild ducks and all the other wonderful wildlife that visits our garden.