How a green Norwich family fills just one bag of landfill rubbish every eight weeks
PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:21 24 December 2019
Concerns over a climate emergency are making big impacts on the way people live with many looking to reduce their reliance on single-use plastic. Reporter SOPHIE WYLLIE found out what families, organisations and businesses are doing to help.
Ever since Blue Planet II broadcast shocking images of plastic pollution littering the ocean the detrimental effects of single-use plastic are never far away from climate change debates.
And in a bid to help the planet, many people are changing their everyday shopping and living habits in big and small ways.
English literature teacher Kit Jackson, from Norwich, who has two boys aged four and one, has spent the past three years reducing her family's reliance on single-use plastic and carbon footprint.
Mrs Jackson, 34, who works at Jane Austen College, said: "The best way to live in an environmentally conscious lifestyle is to do it slowly so you can monitor the rate of your own change. My advice is use up what you have got and start small."
She made changes room by room and admitted the hardest area was the kitchen due to food packaging.
Her swaps have included using refillable Eco Balls for washing clothes, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable nappies, compostable wipes, white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda for cleaning, plastic-free dishwasher tablets, and soap and shampoo bars.
The mother-of-two also consolidates her car journeys, buys in bulk and reuses containers for household items including food and non-food items from greengrocers, zero waste shops and butchers.
The monthly food shop costs just under £400 a month and the family fills a bag of landfill rubbish every eight weeks.
Mrs Jackson, who buys a small amount of single-use plastic from supermarket products, said: "The problem with living a low carbon output lifestyle in this country is you have to be rich in money or rich in time. We feel privileged to be able to maker these choices but it needs to be made easier for everyone. Change needs to be made at a political and conglomerate level."
She praised Norwich for being a green city as well as social media platform Instagram for tips on living a zero waste lifestyle.
"There are more options for people who want to live like that. It is definitely less socially awkward to do it."
Graham Rutherford, owner of Ernie's Zero Waste Shop on Magdalen Street, Norwich, which opened in May, said: "There are a lot more people going down the route of zero waste living. We thought we would attract younger people but all sorts come here. We try to make it so products are as cheap as supermarket prices so it is an easy swap."
The store which stocks dry food goods and cleaning products attracts around 100 customers every weekend who use containers from home for their shop-bought products.
Elsewhere in Norwich, Aroma coffee shop on Upper King Street have started selling its coffee beans in reusable tins rather than filling plastic bags.
Thomas Hood, who is a partner in business, said: "People love the idea. The more businesses implement changes the more consumers see they need to make a change."
Paul Mace, manager of Papworth Butchers on North Walsham Market Place, said: "A lot of people said they didn't want to use plastic bags. We encourage people to bring in their own containers. People are happy to do it. A lot of people bring in their own bag. The mindset has changed."
Accent Fresh, in Downham Market, which supplies fresh produce to schools, restaurants and caterers has replaced its cardboard crates with reusable plastic crates lined with a sugar cane waste-based plastic which is carbon neutral and 100pc recyclable.
Ollie Short, project leader of the packaging changes, said: "We are investing for the future and hopefully it will be worthwhile. A lot of the environmentally friendly options are more expensive and that puts people off. Over the past three years these issues have started to come to the fore and people are putting a lot more emphasis on them. People are becoming more environmentally conscious."
It is not just businesses that have embraced the plastic reduction message, organisations and event companies.
These include Norfolk County Council which signed up to a charter to ban the release of sky lanterns or balloons on any council-owned land.
Norfolk-based Fairyland Trust events company which organises the Fairy Fair has brought in several changes including avoiding hiring stall-holders who generate plastic waste and replacing plastic glitter during workshops with edible glitter.
School reuses plastic to make special bench
A school has transformed plastic waste which would have gone into landfill into outdoor furniture.
Heather Avenue Infant School on Heather Avenue, Hellesdon, Norwich, has built a bench made out of 100 two litre plastic bottles filled with plastic packaging, mainly from food items, which cannot be recycled.
The bottles have been filled by parents of the schoolchildren as well as members of the community.
They have been collected since the summer and was an idea of the school's eco council.
Teacher Wendy Howes, eco co-ordinator for the school, said: "We decided to focus on pollution and marine plastic. It is a bit addictive. Once you start collecting the plastic you cannot stop because you realise how much will go into landfill."
The school, which has an Eco-Schools Green Flag award, hopes to build another bench and possibly a Wendy house. Bottles can be dropped off at the school's reception.
Scientist warns attitudes to plastic must change
A scientist has warned people's attitude to how plastic is used needs to change claiming society has become thoughtless and lazy about the product.
Dr Andrew Mayes, who teaches analytical chemistry at Norwich's University of East Anglia and has researched microplastics for the past eight years, said: "Plastic is fabulous science and great engineering. It revolutionised different aspects of our lives. The problem is we have become more thoughtless and lazy about it. The problem is not the plastic. The problem is our attitude to plastic as humans. Because it is cheap it is equated as being disposable. That is what has got to change."
He said it was important to focus on sensible substitutes to plastic that were effective and that reusing plastic products would help the current climate crisis.
"We need to get smarter on how we design plastic products and make them easier to recycle."