The effect of the Blue Planet documentary: A plastic free Britain?

The island of England, Wales and Scotland used to be a big user of plastic. However, after the popular documentary Blue Planet, a change is happening. The British are caught in the fight against plastic. ‘Blue Planet’ has made the British to notice their role in the plastic soup.

Plastic free shopping

A tangible result of this new movement in England, is a garbage-free supermarket in the most environmental-friendly city in England: Totnes. I hear you think: garbage-free supermarket? Yes. It’s a new thing. All products in supermarkets are usually packed in plastic. Fruits or vegetables need to be put in a plastic bag to be weighted before checkout. All the groceries are packed in plastic bags for you to bring them to your house. It’s plastic, plastic, plastic.

The garbage-free supermarket is the other side of the spectrum. Peanuts are grinded in front of your eyes into peanut butter. Customers bring their own pots, bottles and containers. It is not only environmental friendly to skip the unnecessary plastic packages, but also a fun way to shop. One example is the garbage-free supermarket in Vancouver.

Everything can be bought and be put in your own packages. Detergents, bread spread, almond milk, ginger chocolate, etc. Paper bags are available for customers that don’t happen to have brought their own. At the checkout a customer can get a free hug from the cashier.

After the documentary Blue Planet, the number of British people that put more effort in a plastic free lifestyle, has increased. Blue Planet has caused a flow of realisation over the island. In this film, the known environmentalist David Attenborough showed the world how giant tortoise, albatrosses and whales are the victims of a stunning 8 million tons of plastic that end up in the oceans every year.

8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year!

Sewer fat

One doesn’t have to watch Blue Planet to be confronted with the plastic waste that we as humans produce and leave as waste. The roadsides, streets and beaches are covered in a vast layer of plastic waste. Bottles, wrappers, plastic bags, etc. Everything is dumped and ends up in our precious nature. At the same time, the London sewage is regularly clogged by thousands of wet towels that urbanites flush through the toilet. These, and other wastes that are flushed through the London toilets, end up being swallowed in a huge sewer fat.

This big lump of fat is being called ‘fatberg’ or ‘sewage monster’. It has the size of the Tower Bridge and the weight of 11 London busses.

As this fat monster is hiding in the London sewage system, the Museum of London has made it a bit more tangible by displaying a small part in their museum as a limp of the below-ground sewage monster.

It’s a waste

Blue Planet made the British realise what the effect of their plastic behaviour is. Groups of people started to clean the beaches. A new phenomenon from Scandinavia, called ‘plogging’ set foot on British ground, in which joggers pig up garbage from the streets. This is a way to do some extra exercise and clean up your own living environment.

Sweden is way ahead of many countries in environmental-friendly solutions in daily life. In Sweden, only 1 per cent of waste ends up on a landfill, against 23 per cent on the British island. The British prefer to transport their waste to China, but China is increasingly not willing to accept British waste anymore.

Taking action

The government was pushed towards making changes. They were going to investigate whether returnable plastic bottles could be reintroduced. The minister of environmental issues Michael Gove was seen with a sustainable coffee mug in his hand. And some hotels, restaurants and even Buckingham Palace banned plastic straws. Music festivals like Glastonbury, which attracts thousands of idealistic young people every year and leave a ton of waste, are being forced to take action on the waste they produce.

Penzance in Cornwall has called itself the first plastic free city of England. The Anglican Church has called its congregation to better take care of Gods creation, our precious earth. The May government wants the island of Britain to be freed of the plague of plastic by 2042.

The rest of the world might be laughing of the lack of intensiveness of these measurements, but for the British they were a small step towards change.

Small-scale change

When Richard Eckesbey and his wife Nicola realised how much plastic waste they threw out every week, they decided to change their life completely. They quite their jobs and decided to open a garbage free store. They were inspired by the Berlin ‘Unperfekthaus’. They lived in Manchester, which was not the right place for these ideas, as they thought. Instead they decided to open their new garbage free supermarket in the most environmental city in England: Totnes.

Customers are supposed to bring their own containers, pots, bags and bottles. They can fill these with their groceries. Oatmeal, detergent, salt, oil; everything is available in bulk. Even toothbrushes are made of sustainable wood. Tampons are reusable.

We cannot close our eyes anymore for the garbage we cause.

It is a remarkable project. They have no commercial goal and prices are being kept as low as possible. There are no plans to grow the business. Moreover, the owners hope to be an inspiration for others to start a similar project and decrease the (plastic) waste by simple measurements.

Plastic free shopping

A crucial role is being kept for the big supermarket chains. Many people simply don’t have the money nor the time to go shopping in a ‘zero waste supermarket’. A ban of plastic bags, plastic packages and reintroducing the reusable plastic bottle or glass milk bottle are simple solutions to decrease the use of (useless) plastic.

Currently it is almost impossible to shop plastic free. Normal products are packaged in a shocking 2 or 3 layers of plastic and people are obligated to put the fruits and vegetables in plastic bags to be weighted.

It is, furthermore, a system that we live in that makes us lazy. Fifty or sixty years ago, way less plastic was used on a daily basis. Milk was distributed in glass reusable bottles and plastic bags or packages were not used as widespread as nowadays. We should go back to these times. It’s possible and quite simple. It is a change in the mind set and habits of people, of consumers. Will they be willing?

Do you have suggestions on simple measurements to reduce the use of plastic in our daily life? Please share your ideas and be an inspiration.