The news gods delivered a strange story this week of steely-stomached caterpillars able to eat plastic. Plastic fantastic or a load of rubbish? Well, they are real. But the story made it very clear that these bizarre bugs only eat tiny amounts of plastic and are no silver bullet to our pollution problems.
That did nothing to stop it flying from inbox to inbox, Facebook to twitter. Depressed by all the stories of plastic oceans and disposable fork mountains, it seems that for many people the caterpillar story was just too good to let facts get in the way.
Friends, if we green groups have contributed to this sense of doom, let us make amends by flagging some genuine feel-good solutions coming soon to a place near you, unlike the caterpillars.
Germany’s secret weapon
Codename: Verpackungsverordnung. Say it with potato crisps in your mouth. This German law makes packaging firms responsible for waste. The response has been a deposit scheme covering up to 2 billion bottles so far.
Ban the bags
Ask an Irishman to part with €0.15 for a plastic bag and he’ll tell you to feck off, most of the time. Average use is down from 328 bags to 21 per year. No wonder levees are catching on. France is going further with a ban on all single use plastic bags this year and on single use plastic cups, cutlery and plates in 2020.
Hamburg has stopped its city officials buying single use coffee capsules, bottles and plastic cutlery and there is no reason why every other public authority can’t do the same. ‘Green public procurement’ is the name of the game and we recommend it everywhere.
EU action plan
Brussels has woken up to the plastic problem, wants everyone to think of waste as a resource and has set its sights on plastic as a top 5 priority. A plastic strategy is due in late 2017 to tackle obstacles to reuse and recycling and stop them from leaking into the environment. It’s a great opportunity to nail this area.
Actually, no. Like caterpillars, this isn’t a silver bullet. Green groups like ours say bioplastic smacks of a techno-fix and could create new problems. What we really need is a shift away from plasticy stuff.
Great cartoons Ralph!