Why I think we should ditch the term 'single use'
My lunch today is a sandwich in one of those plastic takeaway boxes and a drink in an apparently 'single use' plastic bottle. I've used both of these containers many many times and will continue to until they break. As you may have gathered from the title, the term single use is one of my pet hates. It puts people in an unhelpful, wasteful mindset. I touched on this in a previous post about trying to reduce plastic in my business, but with 2 or 3 face masks on the pavement everyday on my 5 minute walk to the studio, the culture of throwing everything away is on my mind more than ever.
Photo: Claudio Schwarz
I loved David Attenborough's recent programme Extinction - particularly the way he took a huge step back from our tiny human bubble to take a wider look at the world. In a nutshell, we are not the just the victims of the Covid19 pandemic, but the cause. It really makes me really angry then, that the virus has been tackled in such a hugely environmentally damaging way, given (if you listen to David's highly convincing explanation) it is how we all got here in the first place.
Prior to March 2020, the most I knew about a facemask was the ones surgeons use on House and The Supervet. Now, true to form, we have a confusing amount of types and styles available in every colour and pattern you can imagine. The thing is, as long as it doesn't have holes in it (I've seen lace ones?! LACE ONES?!) and it's used correctly any of them are fine. Of course, I'd always suggest go for something reusable from a small business whenever buying anything if possible but really, being judged by the type of facemask you wear is not a new piece of hatred the world needs.
I have a fabric reusable one I stick in the washing machine and a handful of so called single-use disposable ones. Which are not. I'm not suggesting anyone reuses a face mask without washing it first. These, so called disposables, however survive a wash in some hot soapy water pretty well. Yes, they probably won't last as long as a well made fabric one but as long as you make sure they are clean, they don't have to be thrown away after one trip to the supermarket.
Photo: Nick Fewings
This isn't just about masks, but PPE is the latest in a long line of things designed to be used once then thrown in the bin. Fixing this lies with everyone. A huge help would be manufacturers looking at the materials used to make their products and packaging and seeing if there is a less permanent alternative to plastic, though getting them to change their ways is the long battle and the best thing is to start with is our own habits.
What do I know about all this anyway? I'm a teeny tiny jewellery business. Well, the brilliant thing about small businesses over big is our ability to change and adapt to things quickly. I have a certain amount of sympathy for the big, plastic guzzling businesses it's so easy to hate, because finding an alternative (but just as good) eco method or material can be hard work even for a tiny business like mine. But once I have, it's done. I don't have run it past 20 other people and wait 4 months for a decision and my business is instantly greener.
Swapping to eco materials is obviously helpful, but isn't not throwing an item away at all even better? I know we don't all want our homes to look like a womble lives there, but if we all reuse some - rather than throw away all, it helps. Creative people are probably best at this as we are always looking at 'rubbish' and thinking "I wonder what I could do with that."
Further proof that a little creativity is always a good thing.