MEET THE AU­THOR Lucy Siegle

The One Show pre­sen­ter un­wraps plas­tic pol­lu­tion and of­fers a guide for change.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild At Home -

When did you no­tice plas­tic over-use?

When I was eight, my grandad – a re­tired sci­en­tific trans­la­tor for Shell – told me how plas­tic was made from oil, and that oil was a pre­cious re­source. He would protest at check­outs about over­pack­ag­ing – he was way ahead of his time.

What’s the worst ex­am­ple of plas­tic over-pack­ag­ing you’ve come across?

In 2005 I saw a shrink-wrapped co­conut in Mor­risons. The ex­cuse was that a child could in­hale the fi­brous hair from the shell.

Of the plas­tic we put on the kerb­side, how much is re­cy­cled?

Of­fi­cial fig­ures are prob­lem­atic. Ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics I’ve stud­ied from var­i­ous sources, I’d say about 12 per cent. But this may change now that China is turn­ing away our low-grade plas­tic waste.

Where do UK coun­tries come in re­cy­cling league ta­bles?

Eng­land, Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land are not among the top ten world lead­ers. All are likely to strug­gle to meet the EU tar­get for re­cy­cling – 50 per cent by 2020. Wales, how­ever, ranks sec­ond in the global house­hold re­cy­cling league ta­ble, just be­hind Ger­many, and is on track to meet its tar­get of 70 per cent by 2025.

What’s the UK’s po­si­tion in the sin­gle-use hall of shame?

Num­ber five in the EU, partly be­cause we are a heav­ily su­per­mar­ke­tised cul­ture. We also get through more cot­ton buds and san­i­tary tow­els than any other Euro­pean na­tion, and are vo­ra­cious straw-users. We would rank higher if not for the de­cline of smok­ers here – cig­a­rette butts are a ma­jor plas­tic pol­lu­tant in the EU.

Who pays for UK plas­tic re­cy­cling?

UK res­i­dents bear 90 per cent of the cost of col­lec­tion and dis­posal of plas­tic via coun­cil tax. Even if you con­sume very lit­tle on-thego food, you’re still pay­ing for the clean-up.

What plas­tic cri­sis is yet to come?

Cer­tain syn­thetic cloth­ing can shed thou­sands of mi­crofi­bres in a sin­gle wash­cy­cle. Sci­en­tists fear this could be­come a sig­nif­i­cant source of aquatic pol­lu­tion – par­tic­u­larly as more and more peo­ple are able to af­ford wash­ing ma­chines.

Can the Blue planet ef­fect last?

Fears abate or are re­placed. The task now is to con­vert the en­ergy into strate­gies to re­duce the plas­tic in our lives. Much plas­tic is need­less, so it isn’t hard to make a dent – and such changes bring many ben­e­fits. Get a grip of your bin, get a grip of your life!

Enough plas­tic is thrown away each year to cir­cle the world four times.

Turn­ing the Tide on Plas­tic £12.99, Trapeze

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