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Plastics are  versatile, hardwearing materials which have benefited humans through its application in medicine, electronics or transport. Most plastics, however, are used for packaging and discarded after a single use. Due to their durability and disposable usage, the detrimental effect of plastics and plastic carrier bags in particular on the environment is immense.

Even when plastic bags are disposed of properly, the wind blows them from landfills into the ocean. All the plastics that slip into the sea are carried by currents, and pile up where the various currents converge. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the most well known of the floating rubbish gyres; it is five times the size of the UK. However, there are actually five of them across the globe (see picture below).

The campaigners from Greener Upon Thames bring the problem of plastics to the point: “Plastic bags do not biodegrade, they photodegrade – breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits, contaminating soil, waterways, oceans and entering the food chain when ingested by animals. In the marine environment plastic bag litter is lethal, causing severe pain and distress, and killing at least 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles every year.”

Reducing the consumption of plastics and plastic carrier bags therefore is crucial and you can start making a difference today:

– Talk to businesses
When you visit shops, ask them whether they use biodegradable packaging and why not if they don’t.

– Use a re-useable cotton bag
Reduce your reliance upon plastic bags.

– Make your party green
Parties, weddings, all kinds of social functions generate waste. ACE has teamed up with London Bio Packaging (proud supplier of sustainable packaging to the London 2012 Olympic Games) to promote food packaging made from palm leaf, sugar bagasse and plant starch. Check our websiteace.org.uk/shop.html for details.

People have complained about the inflationary use of the word Sustainability for years. Advertising Age has ranked it in their “Jargoniest Jargon” list of the year 2010. Yet, at 8Plastics Plus we decided to use it all over the shop. Why?

We think it’s a great word with an inclusive meaning that other words such as resilience or environmental awareness do not provide. We like the Brundlandt Commission’s definition of sustainability best: meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. For us, this includes the acknowledgement that resources are finite, that we have a duty to support life on earth in all its forms and that there are individual rights and community responsibilities.

Unfortunately, it is this inclusiveness or, say, vagueness which invites its use in too many contexts. The problem seems to lie with the for-profit sector where marketing people have clocked on that prefixing the word sustainable to a product makes the consumer feel all fuzzy and good inside – and more willing to buy. Using sustainability to refer to bank accounts, shoes or to tokenistic environmental efforts of large multi-national corporations has eroded its meaning.

On the other hand there are great organisations such as the London Sustainability Exchange and Forum for the Future who talk about sustainability and who really mean to create positive change.

The trouble is that if people who really believe in sustainability move on from using it, the word loses further meaning and we lack a concept that describes what we are passionate about. Even if we move on to a new word, there is no guarantee that it will only be used in a context that we like. So, our message is: Reclaim it! Use the word sustainability in meaningful ways to balance out all the empty messages that we are bombarded with. Make sure to define it so that people know what sustainability means to you and then start winning over the world for your cause.

Go on, spread the word, future generations need you!