Won't Someone Think of the Turtles?
This simple 5p charge caused the British public to drop from using 7 billion single-use plastic bags in 1 year, to just under half a million single-use plastic bags within the first 6 months of the 5p charge being in place.
I had a ‘moment’ recently on my work lunch break.
To my defence, my awareness was already peaked having just watched A Plastic Ocean.
Plus, I was beginning to get my head around single-use plastics and ocean plastic pollution.
So then, as I strolled through the local shopping centre… a woman walks by… sipping on a store bought juice (mainstream brand, unnamed…) through a PLASTIC straw.
Won’t someone think of the turtles?! Screams through my brain, as I remain outwardly composed.
Okay maybe that wasn’t as super dramatic as I led that to be – but to have that thought shoot through my head was still more than I was used to having – over someone innocently sipping their Boost juice. Oops, brand name dropped.
You’ll be glad to know I am now much better at managing these plastic straw triggered eruptions of raging judgment, though I am still opposed to the injustice of single-use plastic, plastic straws included.
But moreover, I’m fascinated by how social norms and cultures change.
And as a result, how we, as a growing movement of individuals who care about the ethics of our everyday decisions (e.g. those interested in how to work out love through daily praxis), can effectively fight social and environmental injustices.
In the case of the plastic straw, I’ve enjoyed watching the #strawsuck and similarly hashtagged movement grab hearts and take ground. As an example, have a quick think about the anti single-use plastic movement in the United Kingdom.
On 15 June 2018, a significant win – McDonalds UK announced that they would switch from plastic straws to paper straws – which for their 1361 British outlets amounts to 1.8 million straws per day. That’s a lot of potential turtle catastrophes averted. No guarantee or even commitment was given regarding their remaining 34,639 outlets around the world, mind you, but trials are taking place for plastic straw alternatives within their French, Swedish, Norwegian and US businesses.
What reason did they cite for making this change at least within their UK brand?
Over half a million people calling on them to make the change!
And let’s not forget that the UK is seeing a greater shift take place – with the major name fast food and high street chains Costa Coffee, Wetherspoons and Pizza Express ditching the straw, and high-end supermarket Waitrose no longer even stocking plastic straws in their shopping aisles. This is not the picture of my childhood, or even 2 years ago.
Even the government, yes really, the British government, is demonstrating this shift – pledging to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042. Prime Minister May herself recently called on the 53 Commonwealth nations (including Australia!) to “join the fight against marine plastic”. The Brits are looking to introduce bans or taxes on sales of single-use plastics, has already banned microbeads, and launched a 5p charge on the sale of any single-use plastic bag. This simple 5p charge caused the British public to drop from using 7 billion single-use plastic bags in 1 year, to just under half a million single-use plastic bags within the first 6 months of the 5p charge being in place. As the Tesco ads always taught me, every little helps! (Not sure what Tesco are doing in this space, by the way, anyone else know?).
The UK is seeing a great movement against single-use plastic take place.
From what I’ve found so far, a key strategic reason for this is THE PEOPLE – that is, us, you and me – are demanding this change.
The power of the consumer cannot be underestimated.
If I stopped going to what had been one of my workday 'treats' juice store in the last few months since my awareness of the impact of plastic straws developed, as I didn’t want to use their plastic straws, and didn’t yet have a BYO alternative – how many other people have done the same? And if I’ve bought a set of metal straws and straw cleaner, so that I can BYO my own alternative when I fancy a giant juice or other drink when out – how many other people have done the same? And if I've gathered together a stockpile of reusable bags in my home and carry them with me - in my bag, in my car, ready for the next grocery store shop or mid afternoon workday snack run to the supermarket - how many other people have done the same?
We bring the change.
When we stop buying packets of plastic straws to take to community hangouts or kids birthday parties – it makes a difference. When we stop accepting plastic straws and BYO instead – it says something, and gradually the vendors realise that they need to make a change – and it makes a difference. When we start speaking out about the impact of plastic straws and other single-use plastic on our precious (and irreplaceable) oceans and the creatures that live within – it makes a difference.
It takes courage – about 5 seconds of it – to BYO a metal straw, and it takes courage – about 5 seconds of it – to say no to the plastic straw offered and sip instead if you didn't BYO straw – but it can make all the difference to otherwise defenceless creatures and a voiceless habitat.
Christian, Natasha. “British Prime Minister Theresa May Wants Australia to Ban the Sale of Plastic Straws. But Malcolm Turnbull Has Said No - for Now.” SBS News, April 20, 2018, sec. Australia. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/will-australia-follow-britain-s-plastic-straw-ban.
Smithers, Rebecca. “England’s Plastic Bag Usage Drops 85% since 5p Charge Introduced.” The Guardian. UK, July 30, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/30/england-plastic-bag-usage-drops-85-per-cent-since-5p-charged-introducedhttps://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/30/england-plastic-bag-usage-drops-85-per-cent-since-5p-charged-introduced.
Vaughan, Adam. “McDonalds to Switch to Paper Straws in UK after Customer Campaign.” The Guardian. UK, June 15, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jun/15/mcdonalds-to-switch-to-paper-straws-in-uk-after-customer-concern.