By Helen Calcutt
To my mind, the most affected areas of plastic pollution were not at home. Plastic floated in Nan Hai and Dong Hai, and around countries like Brazil or further East, filtering from the landscapes of Indonesia, or Vietnam. They were ‘over there’, in places I couldn’t reach. Like so many in this world, my immediate concerns rested with what was in front of me: my daughter, her diet etc. I presumed the problem of plastic was ‘isolated’ to specific areas, and that these areas could be cleaned.
What really hits you, when your path to awareness moves from ‘radar’ to ‘reality’ is that we have, quite ignorantly, filtered plastic to poison our seas on a mass scale. As we speak, it swims like oil through our oceans. And as my partner said, it isn’t ‘them’ that’s done this. It’s ‘us’.
It was this scale we weren’t prepared for, and second to that, the sense of responsibility. We came across ‘A Plastic Ocean’ the documentary created by Plastic Oceans Foundation, one Sunday night after our daughter had gone to bed. Watching my partner, Spike, as each new chapter on plastic pollution unfolded, was like watching someone suffer physical pain (this is a man with an affinity with the sea, who sailed for months, on a tiny boat, from Trindade through the Azores, across the Atlantic to Portugal). Watching how plastic is destroying our seas actually hurt him. And it hurt me too.
But it was necessary. As of the day of the documentary, our thinking changed. If we have the power to damage, we can also repair. We can stop being consumers of plastic and look to buy from people who are conscious about packaging. We can also create opportunities to remove plastic from the workplace – where dispensability, and therefore plastic waste, is paramount. Spike has now banned plastic on site. He manages a dance and music studio, and together with the principle, has formulated a new way of selling water, 100% eco-friendly and reusable. Over the next few weeks they will introduce a GS2 Gravity filter, with glass bottles and recyclable crown caps. These bottles can be bought, and re-filled for free.
They’ve also by-passed city council recycling (all city council recycling is unreliable) and instead send all materials to First Mile, boycotting landfills and turning everything into a new product or clean energy. They also have a recycling report, keeping a close eye on how much is consumed and recycled every month.
All this was achieved in a matter of days, and took relatively little effort, though a lot of heart. There’s too much plastic out there now to clean up, and our throw-away society is largely to blame. There are efforts to ‘re-home’ plastic, but what we really need to do – is curb the demand and reduce our plastic consumption. The truth is that plastic isn’t going away. Unless it’s been burned, it outlasts us. When dumped, it breaks and scatters, miles long, into tiny floating particles, eaten by fish, birds, dolphins, wales. And with 8 million tons pouring into our seas every year, it’s creeping (quickly) into eco-system, solidly attaching itself to the systematic make-up of our beautiful blue waters, and because its easily consumed, entering our food chain.
So as my daughter stands in front of me; as your son or daughter stands in front of you, and they are your whole concern, so is the production of plastic, and our seas. What the ocean consumes, we consume. We’re all one, living planet; all part of the same swimming organism. What are we doing polluting our waters like this? As parents, home-owners, those in business, those who work with others, and for others – we can make the changes we want to see in the world. Get off our narcissistic, Facebooking arses and actively integrate our awareness of plastic pollution into the workplace, and home. Raise our children to do the same, and it will bleed on. It’s worth a try. Easier than you think. And it might save us.
Helen Calcutt is a writer and dancer. She is the Poet-In-Residence at Loughborough University, where she is also a visiting lecturer in creative and professional writing. She is choreographer at the Regional Voice Theatre, in Birmingham, England. Her first collection of poetry, ‘Sudden rainfall’, was shortlisted for the PBS Pamphlet Choice Award, and in 2016 became a Waterstones’ best-selling pamphlet collection. Learn more at www.helencalcutt.org