Every little helps

In the words of one of my favourite actors of all time, Walter Matthau, “Holy moly!” If you believe the dire headlines of the past few years, we’re all doomed.

There’s a massive pile of plastic waste floating in the ocean known as the Pacific garbage patch. It’s around five times the size of Britain and swirls 10m (33ft) below the surface between California and Hawaii.
Every year, it’s estimated that we produce 100 million tons of plastic, and 10 percent of that ends up in our oceans. Thank goodness then for eco-warrior David de Rothschild, who is due to set sail aboard the Plastiki (constructed mostly from plastic bottles) any time soon to alert the world to this environmental carbuncle.

And if the plastic peril in our seas gets you hot under the collar, it’ll soon be a lot hotter. Half a trillion tonnes of carbon have been consumed since the Industrial Revolution.
If we burn another half a trillion tonnes, scientists say we will bring about a catastrophic 2°C rise in average global temperature. And they think we’ll be hitting that not-so-magic number in just 40 years; 250 years to burn the first half, 40 years to burn the second. No wonder
Sir David Attenborough has described the future of the planet as “parlous”.
Last month, I met Professor Lynne Frostick at the Yorkshire Post Environment Awards. Waste and water are her things. Bottled water, it seems, is bad news. We spend about £1.5bn on the stuff every year. No one has proved it’s better for us than tap water – it’s certainly not as controlled or tested as tap water – and the sheer number of plastic water bottles sent to UK landfill sites each year would fill Wembley Stadium. Twice! Each bottle in landfill takes 450 years to decompose, so many of us reuse them, the majority of which are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). Some believe that with every reuse they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a possible human carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disruptor. Because the plastic is porous you’re also likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp. How lovely. According to Lynne it’s better to refill the thermos or a glass instead. From the tap.

I wasn’t alone at this eco do in Leeds. Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband was there too. He’s done a lot to keep climate change at the top of the government’s agenda for the past six months. With a commitment to store captured carbon, he wants to play Carol Smilie and give our homes a green makeover. Smart meters showing gas and electricity consumption at a glance are to be installed in every home by 2020. You’ll be able to see real-time information about your energy use. The hope is that if you can see the money ticking away, surely you’ll switch off that plug socket that has your phone charger hanging out of it?

Imagine then how peeved Mr Miliband must have been to learn that his own department’s offices are rated at G for energy efficiency. That’s the lowest on a seven-point scale. Oops. Get those smart meters unpacked, Mr M.

You see, here’s the rub. We all need to try not to get depressed by the headlines and do our bit, but ultimately isn’t it up to world leaders and global industry to enforce real change and put policy making above money making at the UN Convention on Climate Change that takes place in December? Deep breath everyone. Are those greenhouse gases I smell?

This feature was taken from issue 24 of Countryfile Magazine on sale now. To make sure you never miss an issue subscribe today.


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Comments: 1

in defense of the bottle...

Thu, 06/08/2009 - 18:22

Overall this is an exciting article. However;
The writers use of a strawman argument to push the bias of bottled water being a bad thing is dubious.

"no-one has proved it is better for us than tap water"

Actually what has been proved is that both the nazi party during WW2 and the CIA in the 1950s discovered by experimentation that fluoride atrophies the pineal gland of the brain. This organ is required for an ability to think for ourselves. Once it is damaged, the individual "is more susceptible to brainwashing".
The use of fluoride in tap water means that the population are dosing themselves with a chemical that is known to create zombis.

Bottled water does not contain fluoride.

Fluoride is not proven to be beneficial for teeth and bones.
I have spent a few years independently researching the pros and cons for this, all the information to back it up is available.
While the writer of this article uses the 'this has not been proved' argument detrimentally toward bottled water, she then uses the same argument in reverse against the plastic bottles themselves. The words 'possible' as in "a possible human carcinogen" and 'potential' as in "potential hormone disruptor" should logically be regarded with the exact same mistrust as "no-one has proved it [bottled water]'s better for us than tap water".

I have traveled extensively throughout southwest england and south wales. I observe that tap water tastes different everywhere. It often tastes of chemicals. When I drink certain brands of bottled water, I do not taste chemicals. Also I feel fantastic, my mind is cleaner, my body is healthier. It takes 6 weeks for the water in our bodies to be replaced. My personal rationale is that since we are 70% made of water, the purity of our own being should be a priority issue.

Whilst it is worrying that perhaps polymers might adversely affect us, at least they cannot be any worse than the chemicals we know are being put into tap water. Also that bottled water makes me feel so much better than tap water; less lethargic, more sharply focused, more easily able to access 'higher spiritual dimensions' for want of a less risque expression.

The recycling issue.
It is up to the individual to recycle everything that passes through our hands. Where Our councils are not adequately recycling the things we throw away, it is up to us to lobby them to improve their recycling & collection facilities. Personally segregating all of our waste material between compost, cardboard, plastic, etc; is the first major step, simply to make the job of trash sifting an easier task.

A huge stockpile of empty plastic bottles that do not deteriorate for 450 years seems to me to be a great resource for building eco~dwellings, which with bottle~cavity walls would be cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The approach to sustainable culture and economy is holistic after all.

They are also great for collecting rain water in, as well as preventing wild rabbits from eating my young food plants.


I wrote to several recycled plastic companies recently and was informed that constructing an ocean going vessel from recycled plastics is a brainless and dangerous idea. I am now forwarding this article to smile-plastics, the company in question who sought to persuade me against my proposals.


By the way, global warming is happening on mars too, in fact most of the planets in our solar system are affected by the solar electromagnetic acceleration that we are currently experiencing as a peak in the natural cycle every few thousand years.

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