How To Live Plastic Free
by Luca Bonaccorsi, Richard Harrington, and Clare FischerOur oceans are full of junk, much of it plastic which won't biodegrade and which ends up in the bodies of sea life and birds, and through the food chain eventually back in us. It's a crisis on a global scale.
Faced with images of shores full of plastic debris and phenomena such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and albatross chicks feeding their young plastic, it's hard to know what an individual can do to change things. Yet we're all consumers, so we all have a role to play in choosing how much plastic is produced for our use.
The book, produced by the Marine Conservation Society, is structured around a day in the life of a typical adult. Each chapter examines an aspect of life and includes tips on how to reduce plastic use. Many of the suggestions are practical and easy to implement, but there are also a few recipes for homemade things that will mainly appeal to more dedicated people who have plenty of time on their hands.
There are also sections on the weekend, holidays, and special occasions, so most typical purchases are covered, from takeaways and garden centres to balloon releases and party food.
If you're already interested in plastic free living you may not pick up many tips you don't already know, but if you're starting out on that journey this book is brimming with ideas. However, it's also worth reading for the background on how we reached this state and why reducing plastic matters.
One particularly interesting section is that on the difficulties of dealing with waste and plastics recycling, highlighting the low rates and consumer confusion. There is an analysis of the different types of plastic, and the problems arising in dealing with each one. Tips at the end of this section focus on how to be a better recycler.
It is standard for many popular science books, and in particular those dealing with the environment, to end with a note of hope. It's an odd trend in a field where things are, to put it mildly, extremely grim, but I suppose it makes a bitter pill more palatable. How To Live Plastic Free is no exception, although the angle the authors have taken is curious. The book finishes with a look at the beneficial and life-saving applications of plastic: preventing infection in hospitals; saving energy in transport; creating plastic solar panels, and more. The message that not all plastic is harmful or undesirable is so obvious at to be hardly worth mentioning.
What is left out, other than in a brief couple of paragraphs at the end, is the effect that people can have by campaigning, letter writing, and political action. There's easily another book that could be written in the story of what has been tried so far and what can still be done; it isn't this book. The danger here is that it can seem as if personal action is where reducing plastic pollution ends, whereas it's only a small part of the solution. Convincing other people, institutions, and governments to join in is where real change happens.
Although this book doesn't emphasise campaigning action, it is a persuasive piece of writing in itself that should inspire readers to make changes. Well referenced and researched, it's written accessibly and is varied enough to be a compelling read. It's an important book, but it's a crying shame that the state of our seas has become so bad it had to be written in the first place.
3rd January 2019
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy