Yesterday I finished my plastic free week, where I attempted to not buy any single-use plastic to mark my first anniversary in Parliament. This was a task designed, not as show of will power or to shame people for their shopping habits, but to highlight the proliferation of plastic and just how difficult it is to live without it. Below are some things that I have learned.
Parliament need to practice what they preach
By far the trickiest place to go plastic free was inside the House of Commons. Every snack or food stuff comes in plastic packaging, plastic coffee cups accompany MPs and staff in every corridor, plastic cups are stacked next to the water dispensers and plastic sachets of sauce dominate the canteens (I looked it up, the house uses 334,800 sachets of sauce a year). If we hope to convince the country to go plastic free, we must set a better example.
Fresh fruit and veg at the People’s Supermarket
One of the joys of this challenge was the necessity to shop in small local outlets rather than big superstores. Not only did it provide me with fresh plastic free produce, but it helped me feel closer to my community.
Small businesses lead the way
I have learned a lot about plastic free in my constituency. Businesses such as I Am Döner in Headingley are an example to the bigger outlets that you can run an eatery without producing plastic waste. Many more are taking heed and offering plastic free options – this is to be welcomed.
Beware MPs bearing gifts
My only slip in the week was during a debate in Parliament. I got quite emotional during a speech about anti-Semitism and was kindly handed a cup of water by my fellow MP Stephen Pound in a plastic cup.
Challenges are best when they are shared
I was touched by all the messages I received by constituents who were undertaking this challenge with me. Please do keep your stories coming.
Decisive change will not occur through the shopping trolleys of individuals but in the actions of Government and business in ensuring that plastic consumption is dramatically and rapidly reduced. However, by being mindful of our own consumption we can choose options that do not incentivise plastic and be part of the change we want to see.