Reliability, Performance, Compliance

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Q&A - Plastic Free July

Langstone beach

By Bianca Carr, Founder, The Final Straw Solent  

1. What does Plastic Free July hope to achieve?

Plastic Free July is a whole month where people are being made aware of how much plastic we use and raising awareness of choosing alternatives without plastic. We hope it achieves wide-reaching awareness and more people consciously making better choices.

 2. What is WesCom doing to support this monthly awareness campaign?

WesCom has been working really hard on its Environmental Impact Charter and has already reduced a lot of plastics in their offices, throughout manufacturing of products and its delivery. This month they have helped us further by coming to the local beach area in Langstone near its UK office to help litter pick.

The area has been a hot spot for people escaping the realities of what’s going on in the world at the moment, and the chance to admire some of the most amazing views and nature. Yet sadly, they have seem to have forgotten to take away their litter with them when they leave. This litter has been washed in and out of the sea, and tangled up in seaweed and even used by nesting birds to make their nests. Thanks to WesCom, we have removed eight bin bags of waste from this area and disposed of it properly. Sadly, not much was in a condition for recycling but at least it’s all in the right place now.

3, Can you give us an overview of some of the changes you’ve made, or those that are ongoing, as part of the brand’s Environmental Impact Charter?

There have been many changes made at WesCom from its Environmental Impact Charter and many that are ongoing. Things have certainly slowed down at the moment with Covid-19 but alternative packaging is being introduced for items such as screws and attachments. The move takes place from small plastic bags to small paper envelopes. Plastic inserts inside boxes that arrive into the factory have been requested to be removed and any leftover packaging and product is being used as bin bags so nothing is being wasted. Everything that can be recycled is separated into the correct bins throughout the WesCom offices, so the amount of waste going to landfill and the incinerator is significantly reduced.

Changes have even progressed to not using bin bags in the desk bins across the offices. These are all emptied into one waste bin. Milk for tea and coffee is only in large recyclable bottles where previously they were in plastic sachets, and we have introduced a  compost bin for the used coffee grinds and loose leaf tea, as well as only using plastic free tea bags.

4. What has been the most exciting change to date? Why?

For me the exciting part has been where WesCom has requested items to enter their business in a more environmentally friendly way. Such as not using plastic bags wrapped on products that are then placed in boxes. This is exciting as it means the WesCom team have helped influence an outside company to think about what they are using for their products too, and hopefully this will have had a positive knock-on effect.

5.How can the team and distributors get on board and support WesCom’s efforts?

The distributors and the team can get on board so easily. They can continue to support the example set by WesCom, by always using the reusable coffee/tea mugs they have been given. Refusing single use plastic bottles for drinks and always ensuring they recycle is also important. In the near future, we are also hoping to have more ideas on the recycling of out of date products so that we can reuse more of the parts and ensure less waste. This will be great for the distributors too, as we all become more conscious of waste products.

6. Have you been surprised by the amount of rubbish left behind on our beaches since lockdown eased? What is the general advice here?

We’ve been shocked to the very core. At first we were excited about the benefits for the environment: Less cars on the roads, less people buying fast food products and snacks (as only essential shopping was happening). Sadly,  as soon as lockdown eased things took a terrible turn. We felt like we had taken some big steps forward in the fight against litter and plastic pollution in the last two years and can’t believe what’s been happening in local parks, forests and beaches.

There are places that we have previously spent many hours litter picking and removing tonnes of waste that are heading back to the way they were originally. For example, the beach WesCom cleaned with us recently. That beach was pristine and we previously removed more than 50 bin bags of waste. An hour on the beach and removing a further eight bags of litter sadly hasn’t scratched the surface and we will need to get back there again soon to work again.

7. What can we (the public) do to help this problem?

We can do our little bit to help the problem. It as simple as refusing single use plastic where possible. Take your own drinks with you in reusable bottles, bring your own coffee cup. Use products that can be recycled infinitely, like aluminium cans and not plastic. Pick up litter on walks and dispose of it properly, and talk to people about that problem. If someone sees you picking up litter, then tell them why. Educate everyone you can on the issue. Just being seen to be doing your bit has a great knock on effect with others. Many people saw us on the beach picking up litter, and this lead to others helping us at the same time – which is brilliant!

8. How can the wider public do their bit for Plastic Free July? Where can we go for advice, ideas and resources?

Make the best choices we can. Environmentally friendly choices. We have lots of resources on our website and advice on alternative products to use if you want to go more environmentally friendly in your day to day lives.

9. What is the simplest change people can make to support the initiative?

We love all ideas about going plastic free and reducing your waste. It’s where we direct people to all the time when they are starting to think about reducing their plastic use:

Living plastic free – the tips!

  • Don’t buy anything initially. Reuse, repurpose, rethink. Classic line – I want to go plastic free, I’ll need to buy some jars! OK, if you must, but what about your jam jars, ice cream tubs and takeaway containers? Reuse those before buying new.
  • Take it one bit at a time. Deciding to go plastic free can initially be hugely overwhelming. Pick the bathroom or the kitchen and look at certain aspects and what you can do to change.
  • Veg and fruit (generally) comes swathed in plastic. Try and support your local greengrocer if you have one and are able to. I never find the time to do this, so instead I use a local farm who offers delivery  –  https://thelocalvegboxpeople.co.uk/about-us/who-we-are
  • Shampoo/conditioner – refill your current bottles or use a bar. Easy swap.
  • Cleaning products – refill, use ‘ocean saver’ OR learn the old tricks of white vinegar and bicarb of soda – great for a kettle descale, cleaning your drains or polishing up your bathroom.
  • Milk – can you swap to glass bottles? Our local farm offers this, or there are nationwide delivery companies who offer this.
  • If you have children in nappies… please see if you can swap to reusable. If not the nappies, then the wipes – as both products have plastic in them and come wrapped in plastic. Good websites to find out more: www.thenappylady.co.uk/and www.cheekywipes.com/
  • Kids snacks – again, generally a plastic heaven! We have swapped to fruit, making cheese or plain biscuits and making muesli bars (general mash up of coconut oil, some nuts/seeds/dates and that’s it!). Saves a fortune and saves the planet.
  • Meals – if you love a ready meal, have a think about if you can buy them frozen. Generally speaking (not in all cases), frozen items tend to be cardboard wrapped with less plastic compared to fresh food counterparts. It is worth checking this and if you can make swaps.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. Plastic has a purpose, but we have created an over reliance on it. Challenge yourself each time and see if you can swap. If you can’t, so be it. I tried to give up crisps…my addiction is too significant! I’ve decided I’m allowed that treat and you should too.

10. Why is it important to make these changes – for the public but also for brands like WesCom?

It’s so important for companies and the public to make these change as we are at the point of no return with our plastics. We only have one world and we are quickly filling it up with plastic that will be here forever. Our great, great, great grandchildren will still see the evidence of that bottle of Coca-cola you drank 20 years ago! Brands need to lead by example and show they are on the right side of change, being proactive about their plastic use. No-one will want to be the last businesses using non-environmentally friendly packaging ec!

11. The situation with Covid-19 has been beneficial for the environment in many ways, but there has been an increase in single use plastics. How can people keep themselves safe whilst continuing to reduce their plastic use?

Covid-19 has certainly thrown a spanner in the mix hasn’t it?! At first we celebrated at the lack of litter on the streets. The reduction of cars and other vehicles on the roads leading to us having cleaner air and seeing so many people taking time to exercise outdoors on bikes with the family. The biggest problem started when shops stopped accepting reusable containers and bags. This was in the fear that it could spread the disease. We were all forced into using single use plastics again when we had all worked so hard to cut back. Yet, it is safe to use your reusable products during this time.

We just have to make sure we take the right precautions. Wash our hands and keep everything as clean as we can. This goes for all litter picking too. The number one priority is to keep yourself safe. If any litter looks too dirty to pick up or could harm you, then leave it exactly where it is. Only pick up wearing gloves and remove those gloves immediately afterwards. Then put them straight in the wash on a reasonably high temperature cycle to kill the bacteria. Or alternatively people have been using disposable gloves a fair bit lately for litter picks which we completely understand in these unsettling times, we just recommend that they are disposed of correctly with the litter you pick up.

One huge thing we are recommending at the moment is that if you find any water at all that could be related to the pandemic, such as disposed gloves or face masks, you must, must ensure you are wearing gloves to pick these items up and to never touch your face at all with the gloves.

12. What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and beyond?

The next 12 months will be interesting times. Will we see a spike in the disease? Will there be local lockdowns and will this have an impact on the litter we see in the environment? We really hope that we can get back to the place we were at with our beach cleans and get those areas back to their beautiful best. There is a lot of work to do but we hope it’s possible. We would also like to see more refill stores open up too so that people can buy plastic free products more easily. Currently there are not enough of these shops around.

The image of Langstone is © Espresso Addict (cc-by-sa/2.0),

Jul 29, 2020