Low Hanging Fruit

Dog_poo_bags

It’s a wonderful thing that most dog owners are now clearing up after their fur babies. The question is: what to do with it? This is an area where one size does not fit all and urban and rural environments differ.

In cities, the norm is to pick it up in a plastic doggy bag and plonk it in a special dog waste bin or plain old litter bin. Or just take it home and put it in the trash, double-bagged.

Sticking with the bin option, let’s be clear, this means your dog waste is going to landfill. It’s considered hazardous and councils are not going to trawl through litter bins to find these bags of brown gold. So poo and bag will sit underground for many dog years and human years, without oxygen and definitely not decomposing. Debate rages around whether it’s worth using compostable bags but, at some point, landfill conditions may change and we might as well give poop a chance with a non-plastic bag.

Unlikely to become the go-to option for the mass market, there are wormeries and waste-specific compost bins out there that may be worth exploring if you want to avoid landfill.

One thing that’s absolutely clear, we contacted Thames Water and they said under no circumstances is it to go down the loo. Dog excrement can be highly toxic and should not enter the water cycle – plus those bags are not going to do the fatbergs any favours.

Animal waste (bagged or otherwise) must not be put down toilets.

says Thames Water.

The countryside is a different matter and the use of bags at all is controversial. There’s badger, fox and other carnivores’ poop all over the countryside so the least worst option would be to scoop the dog mess and chuck it under a hedge. Or flick it into the long grass. Others suggest burying it. Basically, get it off the path and avoid the bag-bin-landfill route.

The absolute no-no is to put it in a plastic bag and hang it from a tree like a ghastly bauble. A curiously common sight in the countryside, we’re pretty sure it can’t all be explained away by dog walkers on circular routes who will ‘pick it up on the way home’. Just how long is that walk? It’s been 2 months already and it’s still hanging there! [see picture above].

It seems the ubiquitous use of dog poo bags may need revising. In towns, absolutely; in the countryside, a scoop or a flick is best.

Action

Petface Combi Poop Shovel

Water Cooler Moments

Water_Bottles

Some of us at Unplastic are old enough to remember photos of Kate Moss in the ’90s clutching a bottle of Evian. What was made cool by supermodels quickly became ubiquitous, with the consumption of bottled water doubling in the last 15 years.

Those defining backstage moments have led us to where we are now, with each of us downing an average of three bottles of water a week. Most bottles do not get recycled: 2,500 water bottles were collected from the banks of a stretch of the Thames on a single day last year.

Plastic waste not withstanding, why are we even drinking bottled water? Evian is not the elixir of life and it’s not going to make you look remotely like Kate Moss. While access to clean water is a crisis in many parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the UK has had piped water for 200 years and the London domestic supply was deemed an inspiration to other cities way back in the 1820s. Selling bottled water to Londoners is akin to coals to Newcastle. If you don’t believe us, find out how clean London’s and the rest of the UK’s tap water is here.

In an ironic twist, it turns out bottled water is where the contamination lies. Researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia found plastic in 93 percent of bottled water samples – which included Evian, Aquafina, Dasani, Aqua, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino – originating from the cap and the industrial bottling process.

The fastest way to kill a trend is to have it taken on by the masses. So let’s have one final water cooler moment, and agree to head to the tap.

Action

Get your workplace to join the #OneLess movement.

Sign up to refill water bottles.

Donate to WaterAid UK.

 

 

Lose Loose Fruit & Veg?

carrots_plastic_bag

Now that we’re all heading off to the supermarket armed with plastic bags, you can’t help realising the contradiction of tearing off plastic bags for loose fruit and veg. This isn’t a lament about pre-packed produce but about our own voluntary re-packaging. All of the big supermarkets opt for plastic and not paper bags for their loose fruit and veg. Indeed, Walmart-owned Asda is axing loose produce completely so customers will have to buy plastic-packaged goods.

We emailed Tesco to find out why they don’t have paper bags instead of plastic. This was their response:

“In relation to the specific point you have raised on plain brown paper bags for fruit and vegetables, our analysis has shown that they have a larger carbon footprint than plastic due to their weight. We are therefore working with our suppliers to find a sustainable solution via recycling or composting.”

The rationale goes that, because a paper bag is heavier, more carbon emissions are kicked into the atmosphere to transport it. But this focus on carbon footprint is at the expense of the plastic footprint. Yes, CO2 is heating up the planet and we need to improve energy efficiency to reduce it but plastic bags are floating around the seas for hundreds of years. If we don’t start considering the plastic footprint then, in 500 years, global warming will have raised sea levels drastically but we won’t have to move to the summit of mountains because we’ll all be living on rafts of plastic.

Some of us leave carrots rattling around loose in the bottom of the basket but many are still devouring metres of plastic bags. Perhaps it’s our human need to seek order: courgettes in one bag, onions in another. In which case, why don’t we bring last week’s bags back and use them again? We’ve adapted to saving carrier bags so it’s hardly a leap into the unknown to do the same with greengrocery. In fact, until someone manufactures reusable veg bags as they do shopping bags, it’s the best option.

Once you start thinking about saving plastic bags for fruit and veg, you realise they’re everywhere: the bag a white sliced comes in, that bag inside cereal boxes, the endless small, handleless bags you get with a No Bags online shop that each contain one object. You couldn’t buy enough fruit and veg to use them all.

There is undoubtedly a myriad of things supermarkets could do to offset the additional weight of the paper bag right now. Only print receipts if asked, don’t distribute print-outs with an online delivery… those have got to be worth at least a couple of paper bags.