There has been much in the news about our overuse of plastic, particularly in the food industry. Up until 2015 about 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste had been created worldwide, with only 9% of this being recycled and the rest being incinerated or going to landfill and/or the natural environment.
In the recently aired Blue Planet II many of us were shocked by images of albatross parents feeding their chicks plastic and dolphin puppies drinking their mother’s contaminated milk. The government has reviewed their recycling targets and the majority of supermarkets are promising us a reduction in their use of plastic packaging.
Alongside this, Liability’s very own Shona Cobb appeared on Channel 4 News to challenge how people see pre-prepared fruit and vegetables, arguing that it is often vital for many disabled people allowing them more independence and an alternative to ready meals. The answer to this, says Shona, is not to remove them but to look at alternative packaging.
Like Shona, I too use a fair amount of pre-cut vegetables, particularly frozen onions and garlic, which provide the basis of so many meals and are a real pain to prepare. However, there is another side to packaging than many disabled people will be more than familiar with – and that is getting into it in the first place!
I like to think I am a relatively patient person, which can, in part, be put down to having cerebral palsy. Many day to day tasks – from putting my bra on first thing in the morning, to unscrewing the lid on the tube of toothpaste, take several attempts and you learn to factor this in to your daily routine. The thing that probably causes me the most angst though is getting into food that has been over packaged. Some food requires a whole toolbox of appliances from scissors and sharp knives to hammers and or my own teeth. Once into the item it’s not unknown for me to then drop it and spend the next 10 minutes cleaning it up muttering “Why do I bother?” and threatening to resort to ready meals.
Growing up in 1970’s much of our food came in paper bags, milk was delivered in milk bottles that were washed and put out for the milkman to collect, meat was wrapped in paper and/or newspaper and Corona bottles were taken back to the shop where you’d get your money back on the empty bottles. (Finding discarded Corona bottles in the street was also a good way to supplement your pocket money!) Coincidently, the majority of these things were a damn sight easier to open as well!
So, we can have our cake and eat it. There’s no reason why pre-prepared fruit and vegetables could not be put into reusable plastic or glass containers that could be returned just as the old milk bottles were. What’s more, they could be designed with the help of disabled people so that getting into them wouldn’t be such a gigantesque task.