Turning the Tide on Plastic – Lucy Siegle

When the lovely refillery in our village opened (how lucky are we?), they were selling copies of Lucy Siegle’s book, Turning the Tidy on Plastic.

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I’ve read Lucy’s earlier book – ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World’ – and really like the way she writes, so I couldn’t wait to check this one out of the library.

Aside from being struck by the irony of the book arriving in a plastic jacket when the publisher had taken pains to remove the plastic from the cover paper, this was pretty much what I’d hoped for; a realistic account of how you can go about removing single-use plastic from your home.

The book begins by recounting the history of plastic and in further irony, how it was initially develloped to help preserve animal life. With tortoise-shell buttons and ivory billiard balls being replaced by plastic equivalents, a lot of the early innovators in the field had conservation in mind. I found this especially heartbreaking – I don’t know if it’s just me but the idea of the substance being twisted by greed to the point where it’s choking the oceans really hit home and strengthened my resolve to remove more single-use plastics from my life.

I also found the following passage incredibly sad, and true, and moving:

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After having discussed what plastic was supposed to be vs. what it became, Siegle examines what we can do about it.

Initially, she encourages people to examine what they’re disposing of through keeping a diary of items which enter their bin. After which, it’s easier to identify what is/isn’t avoidable.

What I liked most was that she discussed something which has been on my mind for a long while – the aesthetic of low/zero waste on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram in contrast with what this concept actually looked like in peoples’ homes. It’s often a difficult thing to covet beautiful wooden surfaces, stainless steel bottles and bamboo cutlery when what you’re living with is aging formica, a ‘disposable’ plastic bottle from six months ago (which you really will get round to replacing with a ‘proper’ reusable one soon) and some plastic cutlery you got from a visit to Pret. The interesting part here being that whilst the former list of things looks pretty, it’s probably more wasteful at this point in time because these items have been specifically created – thus using energy and resources – whilst the latter existed anyway and you’re saving them from landfill…

This touched on what’s probably been the hardest part of reducing plastic for me – the stationary nature of the ‘journey’. It can appear that nothing changes, when in fact, simply by this fact alone, everything has changed. By keeping our possessions the same – by preserving what’s there already instead of dizzily consuming more – we’re changing everything – we’re suddenly part of the solution.

I learned a lot of things reading this – particularly about how important it is to know what you can and can’t recycle and why recycling isn’t a solution, rather than a stop-gap.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking to reduce the amount of plastic waste in their life.

Other than this and ‘To Die For’, what are your favourite books about the environment? Recommend them here, or on Twitter. ❤

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