What can we do about polluting plastics?

Martin Wright, environmental journalist chaired the Hay Festival debate and recalled a story from his father.  His dad’s chemistry teacher once marvelled over a new product, which was lighter, stronger and cheaper than many - that product was plastic. It continues to have many uses, but in the wake of those benefits comes a “slew of unintended consequences”. 

He said the general population are more aware than ever of the harm plastic pollution is doing to sea creatures like turtles and whales, and there are accusations that plastic pollution has caused “infertility in humans and is ratcheting up climate change”.

Martin continued the conversation with environmental campaigners Natalie Fee, Lucy Siegle and Paula Owen.

Natalie, environmental campaigner against single use plastics, said, “Single use bottles are becoming the smoking of the environmental movement…it is becoming more shameful to be seen with a single use water bottle”.    

Paula, of the #pointlessplastics campaign, said we need “people power” to make supermarkets limit their use of plastics.  Many will recall that M&S came under fire when they encased a 50p worth of cauliflower in a plastic tray and then shrink wrapped it further and charged consumers £1.50 for the  ‘cauliflower steak’.  One tweet went viral and M&S were forced to back down within 48 hours. 

Lucy, eco-activist and reporter on The One Show raised the issue of “shrink wrapped coconuts". When she questioned  the supermarket chain Morrisons, they said,   “We have to shrink wrap the coconuts as it is a safety hazard to young children who may inhale the fibrous hair”. 

She said too often supermarkets fall back on the excuse that the consumer demands the use of such packaging.  She said it was time the consumers made a stand and said,  “I do not demand it and even further, I request you stop”.

If you are interested in more events like this, you might like Event 10 at 7pm on Thursday 23 May. If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world's greatest thinkers.  Pictured L-R Lucy Siegle, Martin Wright, Natalie Fee and Paula Owen.  Photo by Paul Musso.