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S8 E1 – Are there more pressing issues than ‘single use plastics’ facing the food industry?

This weeks podcast ‘wades’ into some tough topics. We understand the huge impact single use plastics have on our oceans (and ultimately end up in our glasses and on our plates). However, if the food industry doesn’t rally to solve the farming problems impacting climate change there may be even bigger problems in the future. What should be prioritised?! We know, deep!! But we debate the issues in typical Sorted style with a balance of seriousness and stupid comments from Barry!

Best soundbite: “I was too scared to use a public bin!” – Barry

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  1. Sunanda_K

    Okay, here I am in 2020, quarantined and watching your old content. I know that this comment is probably going to go unnoticed. BUT I HAVE TO SAY THIS.
    Plastics are a tip of the iceberg of the other first world problem : overconsumption. The only reason why countries like the UK don’t see massive garbage dumps because they can export it to the developing world (and then blame Asian countries for “creating” the plastic problem). Simplest data form of data that I use to support this : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_energy_consumption_per_capita . A simple comparison of numbers here tells me that an average person in the UK consumes nearly 6 times the energy that an in Indian person does and I have to ask- is that really necessary? Does anyone need 50 polyester shirts? Or a new plastic cup for their coffee every morning?
    Please have a look at the data of plastic waste per person per day graph here : https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution#all-charts-preview
    The global north can afford to this while Asian and African rivers choke and entire ecosystems are disrupted because the problem will hit you last. Two-thirds of the waste UK produces ends up in Malaysia (https://www.standard.co.uk/futurelondon/theplasticfreeproject/why-does-the-uk-send-plastic-waste-abroad-to-be-recycled-a4153966.html) and it will never be recycled. It will be burnt- affecting the poorest of populations. some of it illegally makes its way to my home, btw. (https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/waste/plastic-waste-illegally-imported-into-india-claims-expose-67482).

  2. MrsJimerson19

    SO, this is a really big subject to tackle. Less about the straws and more about plastic consumption, use, throw away, and the process of making it whether regular or ‘from waste’. Plastic use is still so largely popular that its everyday throw away use IS from the food industry (toy, car, everyday use aside). from straws, packaging, bags, bottles, cups, dinnerware, and etc. We’re quick now to condemn straw use as much as we were bags not too long ago. BUT! What about that small plastic window in your Entenmann’s, or the bag in which your rice, veggies, frozen foods, etc come in? The bottles made from waste for your water? Was it really made from that? The cans of beverages that are lined in plastic on the inside… the plastic used to cover meats from grocery store delis daily (might just be US idk). There’s so much more plastic being used that people often forget that its not your bar neighbor destroying the sea’s eco-system but larger corporations. The plastic billion dollar industry beast is much larger then just straws. With trends we tend to over look what major moves need to be made by MAJOR companies. and if we stop using plastic, we reverted to what “paper straws” made from waste. Are they really? are we killing the planet at such a rapid pace that we caught onto the massive insanity too late? I am unsure. Its a worthwhile topic to bring to the table of all countries. Personally I don’t see a way of getting out of it as easily as we all once thought. I have seen companies make ‘edible’ dinnerware and cups. I have also seen companies come up with alternatives like the beeswax ‘paper’ to hold/cover foods. small baby companies that are up and coming are trying their hardest to tackle this problem. However, recent visits to California where its 10-20 cents a bag isn’t a big game changer to me. I don’t have all the answers but I do think we can make changes as long as there is profit to be made as companies care LESS about human and animal life as they do about their profit margins.

  3. Casolo

    Yes, I think there are bigger issues facing the food industry than plastics. Nutritional food, especially fast food, antibiotics for animals, having enough food to feed the population and food waste. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do anything about plastics. People concentrate on the straws, but plastic lids use a lot more resources. As mentioned a lot of the recyclable and even compostable waste requires special facilities. I am trying to use re-usable plastic containers instead of food wrap. The big benefit to plastic for me is meat and the vacuum sealed packaging it comes in. It really reduces the amount of waste because the meat lasts so much longer that way.

    To me over-packaging is a big issue. Cereal boxes don’t need to be as big as they are, Amazon packs small things in too large boxes, of which the contents themselves have too much packaging. Like it was said on the podcast, big industry needs to be involved, but unless people complain and change their buying habits based on the issue of the day, there is no incentive for them to change. Great topic.

  4. nosoytonta

    I think the world is in awareness and there are good intentions of recycling, but sometimes I feel crestfallen. I do my part, as being born and raised in a third country makes me feel very conscious of the resources we have, but It also makes me super frustrated when I see people behaving irresponsibly, many out of ignorance and many more out of sheer disdain.

    As Barry noted, the process of putting the right thing on he right bin is so confusing. Why does it have to be, I wonder? Here in the USA, the situation turns into a near joke when the recycling cans are shared in a leased building. Some recycling cans come with basic instructions (‘cardboard and paper only’) yet some people contaminate the whole can by putting one wrong thing. Recycling should be a shared responsibility, yet sometimes it feels like a very lonely task. On top of that, there is a culture of laziness: if it requires a bit of effort or (God forbid!) research involved, people are not going to contribute with recycling properly. People like things the easy way. I think, then, it is up to us to share the little things we know and tell our friends and our family little bits like “if the thing you want to recycle is dirty, is trash. Don’t recycle it”.

    Sharing the knowledge, changing the habits of the ones surrounding us, bit by bit. That’s the most we can do… or is it not? Hmmm…

  5. teaandliquor

    This is such a vast and contentious topic – I commend you for even beginning to brush the surface of it, because it’s quite intimidating!

    I agree with Jamie in a lot of ways here. The largest corporations are the ones doing the vast majority of the damage according to statistics, and while that doesn’t absolve individuals of responsibility, it does mean that in a just world the onus would be placed on those conglomerates to cut down on the pollution and plastics used, and take responsibility. Unfortunately, as long as there is still profit to be made and they aren’t facing true backlash, I can’t see that happening. I would argue that in order for the large companies to make a change, it would have to be financially incentivised via tax breaks, because doing the ‘right thing’ isn’t going to be incentive enough.

    I also empathise with Barry. The rules around what can be recycled and where are so complex and nebulous that they’re overwhelming as a layperson, and there is a real fear of doing the wrong thing, to the point where sometimes it feels less stressful to – as Barry said – just bung it in the normal bin, because while that’s bad at least it’s not ‘wrong’.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with this honestly. It’s one of those things that I feel like if I think about too much it becomes almost terrifying and consuming and anxiety inducing because of the direction the planet is headed in, and I can completely understand why some people choose to tune it out. Great job on the podcast and it was a very good brush over the surface!

    • Sorted

      Thanks for your thoughts! It is all so confusing isn’t it! Great to hear you’re enjoying the podcast. Do let us know if there are any topics you’re interested in hearing us discuss 🙂

  6. Annie1962

    Agreed we don’t need straws or plastic bottles. Don’t know about England but where I live we have three rubbish bins and we HAVE to separate our waste accordingly – rubbish to be destroyed and rubbish to be recycled.
    I have stainless steel straws and a coffee cup to use when I go and get a take away coffee. Most of the time I don’t have take away coffee that much anyway.
    The thing annoying me is that we buy a lot of food that comes in plastic trays (not the polystyrene ones) ; proper plastic trays which we have been told by our council , are not recyclable. These trays are to be just rubbish . What I do with them is use them again – Some are water filled for the birds and bees in our area (dang hot in Perth Australia)
    Others are used for trays below pot plants for my vege seedlings and herb plants
    Until we can recycle them.. I am using them again in my house and not putting them in the rubbish.
    I have a set of bags that I put my shopping in – sheme on Coles New World here for firstly telling us that they won’t be using plastic bags anymore and TWO WEEKS later selling their shopping bags at 20 cents a pop and not good plastic. I refuse to use them – instead I bring my recycled Aldi bags into the store.
    As for straws..are the paper ones with a waxy cover still in use? Here’s an idea – if you’re buying a drink you get a discount if you refuse a straw because you have a steel one on hand.
    I hope that this gets adopted once more here in Australia – it’s in the UK now
    When I was a child I loved being given milk in glass bottles. Bring it back.

    • Sorted

      It’s the same here in the UK, we separate our rubbish bins too. Interestingly they are bringing back the old milk floats with glass bottles more and more too- it’s coming back full circle- who’d have thought!

      • Because the milk bottles are environmentally more friendly (Save for the gas used for transport) and makes me feel like I’m in an old timey movie.

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