Having moved to Peebles in 2002, self-proclaimed ‘stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s plastic
Plastics: The bane of modern society that is killing marine life and damaging the environment. Many of you are probably aware that plastics is a derivative of oil, that black gold, which seems to have driven human progress towards extinction!
Scotland introduced the 5p single use plastic bag surcharge in October 2014, after Wales in 2011 and Northern Ireland in 2013. England followed suit in 2015. Legislation proves the point that these measures work, as over 80 per cent of these single use plastic bags were no longer handed free to the general public – the equivalent of 650 million carriers – in the first year of Scotland’s 5p charge! The charge for single-use carriers also raised about £6.7 million for good causes in the first year alone.
Scottish government research concluded a net saving of more than 4,000 tonnes of plastic and other materials each year. The net carbon saving is more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually. The charge applies to all single-use bags, including those made of: paper, plastic and some plant-based materials. Plans are under way to increase the 5p charge to 10p. Will this help in reducing our use of these items? Or is there a better way to deal with this crisis head-on and take radical steps now?
On my recent visit to India I was surprised to be informed that single use carrier bags have been banned by the state government in Mumbai! Local governments in more than half of India’s 29 states and seven territories are drafting legislation to ban single-use plastic bags. Government officials are also working to reduce the manufacturing of plastic by shutting down factories and preventing the import of plastic products. At the United Nations’ World Environment Day last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced its intention to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022.
So what can we learn from other countries that are doing much more than us in Scotland? We need cross party support which includes the Conservatives and Labour to join the Greens and SNP in passing legislation in rolling out a complete ban of these items. What also needs to be looked at is the packaging industry that is responsible for five times that amount. We need to push supermarkets and big retailers to stop packaging food and other items in plastics that are often not recyclable and end up in land fill or worse shipped abroad to countries that have lax environmental laws. Local organisations in Peebles that claim to work for the environment should be more rigorous in lobbying their elected councillors and local authority in introducing similar laws in the Borders and reaching out to all of the community rather than preaching to the converted few every time. A joint collaboration is the only way for things to work and be effective in the long term, anything else is just tinkering on the edges with no real impact.
Hope we can take radical steps to solve this problem before it’s too late.