In recent Environmental news, there is a new law in France to ensure all plastic cutlery is made of degradable material that can be put in compost by 2020. This drew my attention at first because most of the online headlines projected it as ‘France bans plastic cutlery’, upon closer inspection it doesn’t mean all plastic cutlery is going all together; they just want to make sure the material can degrade faster. A European packaging manufacturer, named Pack2Go, claim that this law isn’t the best idea as there is no proof that the new material is environmentally beneficial and personally I can see where the secretary of this company is coming from however it got me thinking, would it be a good idea if the UK went through with a law similar to this?
This year and last you may have noticed on the news, environmentally influenced decisions such as the French senate voting to ban supermarktets from throwing away unsold food. A change closer home would be the plastic bag charge that came into effect last October – all large retailers in England must charge at least 5p for single-use carrier bags. You could argue charges and extra taxing only helps a bit in terms of progress but then would people throw a fit if we were to completely ban a disposable, one-time use thing? The process that goes into manufacturing our plastic cutlery; the sporks, spoons, forks and knives we can pick up in a canteen or whilst we’re in a rush to eat – is a lot bigger than we’d expect. The two common materials in plastic cutlery are either polypropylene or polystyrene. They aren’t just discovered randomly and fossil fuels are used in the process of creating these small forks we use for around 3 minutes and then chuck away. Did you know polypropylene produces 1.67 lbs of CO2 emissions for every 1 lb manufactured and then polystyrene produces a wopping 2.5 lbs for every 1 lb. Another scary statistic comes from China, where it is estimated that between 57 and 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks are thrown away every year. It was so bad that Greenpeace China persuaded Beijing restaurants to not provide disposable cutlery unless requested.
So if all of this hassle and bad environmental effects go into plastic cutlery, how is it so cheap? Well prices are kept low because of working conditions and paying the manufacturers low wages. It’s a depressing reality. What are ways that banning plastic cutlery and aiming for a year to completely rid of the usage of it benefit us? Obviously we can’t just expect to ban something and suddenly all UK-produced plastic waste is gone like a magic trick, but in the long term would it be better for workers, businesses and the environment? Businesses must have to order bulk of plastic cutlery every so often to meet up with the demand but would no longer ordering it and investing in a bulk of reusable steel cutlery benefit them money-wise in the long run? As well as this point, would we eventually maybe be able to put more money into providing hospitality jobs for unemployed people and paying these employees a higher margin instead of relying on customers to chuck away disposable cutlery? Sure as someone who works in hospitality, washing up lots of food-covered cutlery isn’t my idea of fun but deep down I understand it’s life and in reality it only takes less than a minute to give a single spoon or fork a good scrub and I think I’d prefer to spend 10 or so minutes giving things a clean or loading a mass dishwasher than losing minutes of our planet’s environment harmony.
The last idea is similar to the solution of getting rid of plastic bags. People were told if they didn’t want to pay the 5p charge for each carrier bag, it was encouraged to bring their own reusable bags. Should we encourage people to bring our own cutlery to cafes? You spend a one off payment to invest in some cutlery that you bring out in your bag and then wash later after use. Would these ideas benefit businesses and people as well as the environment or would it cause inconvenience? What are your guys thoughts?
Thanks for reading!