Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is great and should be piloted in England but we need to be careful with the pilot since the first impression is always the best impression. If the scheme fails, that will be the end of it.
I have been doing a little research on reverse vending machines and I could speak to a few folks who are experts in this field. Special kudos to the Scottish government for making this happen. Now, Reverse Vending Machines (RVM) have been installed in the UK ages ago but have never really taken off but with the current “Public awareness and focus on Plastic Pollution” and “DEFRA’s initial consultation“, there is hope the Deposit Return Scheme can be deployed nationally soon.
The whole ecosystem to support the scheme needs to be in place and this is the tough part. Here are a few this that a DRS Scheme Implementation needs to get on top of before launching a pilot that will fail without any of these
- Confirming there is no loss of employment due to the installation of the DRS machines
- Costs to fund the initial deposit returns
- Fraud Prevention
- Standardised Barcodes on bottles
- Strong lobby by parties not interested in the Scheme
- Rental of Space for the machines and the collection
- Scheduling collections of collected bottles
- Recycling Partners to recycle the collections
- Costs for Maintenance
- Public Awareness Educational/ Communication costs
- RVM Installation Cost, Maintenance, Rental, Lease etc.
This is an example of how this was done in Lithuania in record time
BBC’s Blue Planet II has definitely generated awareness about the scale and dangers of plastic pollution. Innocent sea creatures are dying after getting entangled in or eating plastic.
Plastic breaks down into microplastics and nanoplastics which can penetrate organs & tissues. Every time we wash our clothing, the washing machine can leach upto 1000,000 microfibers into our waterways, rivers and oceans. Fish eat them and we eat the fish. One third of the fish sampled from the river Thames were contaminated with microfibers. Plastic is in the water we drink, the food we eat, the alcohol we drink and in the air we breathe.
But, no one is talking about the real danger which is “microplastic & microfibers are carriers for toxic chemicals”, some of which are endocrine disruptors and can result in genetic changes and cause cancer. Studies have shown hormonal/ reproductive/ genetic issues in marine life. The impact on humans is not known yet and WHO is looking at it now.
Here are a few links which will bring you up to speed on the current research about microplastics, microfibres and their link to chemicals, environment and health of marine and human life.
- Video: Microfibers From Our Clothes Are Poisoning the Ocean
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
- BBC report on microfibres
- Audio: BBC Radio 4 – Microfibre Detectives (Personally recommended)
- Video: Sky Ocean Rescue – Plastics from our clothes is polluting oceans
- The Hidden Plastic In Our Dinner
- Orb Media Report: Microplastic in global bottled water
- House of Commons – Environmental impact of microplastics
- Micro- and Nano-plastics and Human Health
- Micro(nano)plastics: A threat to human health?
- Video: The Story of Microfibres – The Story of Stuff Project (See below)
- Plymouth University: Washing clothes releases thousands of microplastic particles into environment, study shows
- The Guardian – Stella McCartney calls for overhaul of ‘incredibly wasteful’ fashion industry
*Reference Slides: http://bit.ly/2CvXzMM
A friend once asked me, “Is that water in your bottle or is the bottle in your water?” I was like, what? You do not make any sense!
In this article, we shall discuss the hidden plastic on our dinner table, inside our food, water, alcohol, air; everywhere. What is wrong with a bottle of water made of plastic? The Plastic Bottle? Of course, this is not wrong, but what else? After you have drunk your water, Will you eat the plastic bottle? Maybe not? Most of us do not prefer to eat plastic. Yet you just drank some plastic.
Did you know that 83% of tap water sampled were contaminated with plastic particles, even bottled water? You can’t see the plastic but it’s there. And plastic is found in unusual places, even in my favourite dinner of fish and chips. One-third of fish caught in the English Channel have plastic contamination. Did you know that sea salt, honey, beer, mussels, even chicken and air?
Plastic is the water I am drinking, the food I am eating and alcohol I am drinking. Literally everything on my dinner plate – has some plastic in it. I did not believe this. I am not a scientist and I contacted all the best universities to help me find out if this is true. However, I did not have the budget to hire their labs and then I went to Amazon, got a microscope for £20 and started sampling tap water. It is simple, you can do it too.This is what you will find, “microfibers”. These are tiny plastic fibres that leach out of our fleece jackets while washing.
But how did plastic get in there? Let me take you through one of the possible journeys. We buy our plastic water bottle in Camden Market, use it for ONLY 20 mins then we BIN it or worst case we throw it into the Regents Canal. Rain and the wind blow the content of overflowing bins, into the Canal, and then on to the river Thames, into the North Sea and to the Ocean. There, the plastic degrades to microplastics which act as magnets for toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other illness. Fish eat these microplastics and we eat them too.
These microplastics release these chemicals inside the fish and these chemicals are more dangerous than the microplastic themselves. Studies report poisoning, brain damage, hormonal issues, reproductive & sexual issues in marine life, and potentially in humans. E.g Studies report microplastics releasing chemicals linked to contraceptive pills which have been eaten by fish and finally ended up impacting the fish’s’ reproductive cycle. These microplastics break down to nano plastics which are even smaller and can penetrate the organs.The health impact on humans is not yet fully known. I think you can guess, to say the least beneficial.
Now, knowing there is plastic; Would you drink the glass of tap water we discussed before? Would you give the fish to your child?
The Irony is Yes, We would! but if we continue doing this, we will become like the fish. Contaminated.
I was shocked when I discovered that? What do you think a British Indian did to deal with this shock? “Have a cup of tea”. However, along with the sip of tea, I also had some refreshing polypropylene. Yes, these tea bags contain plastic too.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Plastic is a FANTASIC material. Look around you; your pen, coffee cup, glasses, mobile phone, bag, jumper, shoes, ALL contain plastic. If I had nuclear waste, I would use plastic bags to store it. We rely on it too much but we regard plastic as convenient, cheap, and disposable.
After reading this,
- Are we are worried about the dangers of plastic, IN OUR DIET?
- Should we take action to prevent the danger?
You are probably wondering Why am I telling you all this?
I was born in Dhemaji a remote village in the state of Assam in North East India, I grew up surrounded by water. But I could not swim. So, logically, I thought I would get into Ocean Racing and I signed up for the Clipper Round the World Race, to race a 70ft yacht from London to Rio de Janeiro.
Of course, by the time I got out there, I had learned to swim. Thought I’d better do that! This was Ocean Racing and we sailed to the remotest corners of the planet. Miles & miles from the shore, Henrick had to jump into the water to release these turtles caught in the fishing nets & bottles. This is just one example. These fishing nets and bottles will degrade to microplastics, fish will eat them and plastic will end up on our plate.
After the race, I was back in London and I remembered what my friend asked me “Is my water in my bottle or my bottle is in my water?”. I researched a lot, picked up my microscope and I wanted to share these dangers of plastic with everyone. The mainstream media and, of course, luminaries like Sir David Attenborough recently have been talking about Macro Plastics but the concern is still relatively low. I decided to be creative and come up with a wacky campaign to generate awareness and highlight the dangers of plastics.
I had seen and collected plastic from the river in London and I wanted to cycle the entire length of the river Thames to find out the impact of plastic pollution.
I picked up my handmade Bamboo bike, attached two floats to it; stuck a propeller & a rudder to the front wheel; two fishing nets to the rear rack and I was ready, well I thought I was ready.
Can you believe I capsized on the first day of the trial?
The first trial did not go as expected. Day 1, was the hardest. I had capsized again ;(, it was raining, it was dark, the bike was sinking and I thought for 10 seconds that the project, my adventure was over ;( but I continued anyway. I can be pretty stubborn.
Anyway, I got there and from the river I collected 66 items every day, around 11,000 bottles go to landfill every single minute in this country.
This campaign was really impactful! I was the only weird vessel on the river, this was a great conversation starter and everyone stopped, gave me a few looks and wanted to know ‘What the hell are you up to?’ , ‘Is this your road bike’ ,’Off road Cycling?’ , “You can’t escape cyclists, not even on the river’.
Now, I am finding a lot of plastic in the canals.
Here is a fish sampled from the Thames with microfibers inside.
Microfibers are also micro plastics but instead of degrading; leech out of our synthetic clothing during every wash. During a wash, our washing machines can release up to 1000,000 microfibers to the wastewater system, to the treatment plants and to the river, to the fish, and on to our plate.
So the question is, Do you want to be this fish? What can we DO to prevent ourselves eating plastic for dinner and prevent ourselves becoming like the fish? Indeed, how can we prevent the fish themselves from being killed by plastics?
All these are bad news but Of course, we can stop it. This is the good news. A lot of citizens led campaigns for a plastic-free aisle, refill stations, against plastic straws etc are gaining momentum. A lot of legislative actions are being passed and a lot of innovation is going on in the production of alternative packaging, circular economy etc. But What can WE as individuals do to make real, tangible change?
Let us stop this at its SOURCE, every TUESDAY. I invite you to go PLASTIC FREE for just one day – #plasticfreetuesday . I would start with a list of plastic items I use daily and tick them off one after one. For example, I will use a refillable water bottle, drink coffee in the cafe, bring my your own cutlery, you may want to buy in bulk from the farmers market, cook, reduce frequent washing of clothes, being smart with fast fashion purchase, using the stainless steel blades and the good old pen. Please search for more ideas using hashtag #plasticfreetuesday , learn about it, talk about it; with your family, friends, colleagues; because together we can make a big difference.
If we go plastic free for just one day, we will just in this room of 200 people save 1 ton of plastic every year, imagine how much more if we can get three of our friends and three of their friends to do it; Won’t that be amazing, a real start?
Please join me and share your achievements using hashtag #plasticfreetuesday . I hope you agree with this idea that is not just worth spreading but worth doing. Let us do this, For the sake of our world.
Besides our day job, we all have a passion, a purpose, a cause that we want to champion and make an real impact, impact on the planet we live in. This cause is very personal, usually, something that really connects you, comes from your heart; makes you who you are and you are itching to do something. You want to do something more than just donating money, lead a movement and make a direct impact.
If you want to make change happen, here are the three things I have learnt from my campaigns.
– Be Passionate: You need to be passionate about the cause you are campaigning for and the results you want to achieve. Do your research, do your homework before you jump into execution. Do find all the existing players and see what they are doing, talk to them to see if there is any collaboration opportunity. Remember, you will not be fighting against other players since you all are walking together towards the same goal. It is called minimal gains and the ripple effect will make massive changes.
– Be Different/ Innovative: Out attention span has reduced drastically and we are bombarded with digital media, causes, donations etc. If you want to stand out, you need to do something different, something innovative, something radical, something mad. Your friends will say, this is mental, why are you doing this? Keep away from them, believe in yourself and go for it! If you need motivation send me a note and I will kick your a**e.
– Right Team: This is the key to success. You need a team since planning a campaign involves a lot of things and it is the power of the network, besides you have just two hands and 24 hrs a day. With your day job, this is reduced as well. So, build a team who share the same passion and want to make a change. But, do not rush! There are many dreamers out there with all promises but almost always fail to deliver when it is time to “do it“. Often life comes in the way and you can not blame them, but your cause is important and you need to move on. I have learnt this the hard way. So, work with someone on a trial basis at the start and see how it goes 😉
Once you have these sorted, set a date for your first campaign; work backwards and make change happen!
By the way, if you want to brainstorm, let me know and I am more than happy to share my experiences and give you that kick!