How many bins do you have? Are you passionate about separating your plastic from your paper? Do you remember having to check tins and cans with a magnet just to check which could be recycled?
When I was younger, I had grandparents who visibly shuddered if we left food on our plate. Now, we seem to live in a country which is permanently in rebellion of living within the means of the community.
I remember when I was a child, I collected used tin foil and plastic bottle tops to be donated to various charities and thought I was doing well. Time moved on. Then, a month ago, I stumbled upon a Facebook group proudly entitled ‘Zero waste’.
This intrigued me, especially as I’d recently seen a mini documentary about a young lady in Australia who had a jam jar as her dustbin and hadn’t yet filled it with rubbish she couldn’t recycle. The lifestyle appealed to me. Treading gently through this world so your footsteps are light, makes me feel warm and a good custodian. I joined the group, hoping to pick up tips and encouragement. It reminded me of my grandparents, who never threw away old things. No, they mended and ‘repurposed’ whatever they had.
I knew one lady local to me had done a polite British protest at her local supermarket; unwrapping all unnecessary packaging and explaining that she didn’t want shops to double wrap chickens which came already wrapped in waterproof plastic. She argued that produce could be sold loose, with people having the choice of whether they needed to use light, flimsy sandwich style bags filled with carrots or to bring their own crocheted ‘string bags’.
I thought I’d join in. Dutifully, I went along to my supermarket, chose loose produce and felt rather pleased with myself. But I came to the white cabbage. Shrink wrapped, I can only assume to hold all the leaves together. It then struck me that I could make my own protest. The store would begin to find polite people everywhere unwrapping their unwanted plastic. It would cause the executive to have to rethink policy. Sir David Attenborough would be proud.
I told my newly found Facebook group what I’d done…and was met by a mixture of confusion, personal insults and a thumb sketch on how to best tackle direct action. Apparently I had done exactly the wrong thing. I was as brainless and stupid as the cabbage I had freed.
My error, when you boil it all down, was in assuming the people in these groups would applaude effort and intention. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had caused more work for the poorly paid store assistants, I had simply transferred my plastic problem from one place to another and I was an embarrassment to the entire movement. As you can imagine, I felt as if I had bitten off more than I could chew, it’s always difficult to hold your ground with a bunch of fanatics – whatever their beliefs. However, I have learned a powerful lesson. Never joke with Zero-wasters, waste is not a matter to take lightly. And above all, look for farmers markets where you can be sure that the cabbages will be free from Shrink wrap plastic…It will save a huge amount of misunderstanding. I have reverted to the sanctuary of music memes and cat puns, having left the Zero Wasters to continue their journey without me.