News Brief & Commentary by Kip Hansen — 21 January 2022
This coming October, the UK intends to “ban several single-use plastic items, including cutlery and plates”.
“The European Union approved a ban on single-use plastic items in 2018, which went into effect three years later. England’s neighbors, Scotland and Wales, each banned a similar list of items last year.”
“Rebecca Pow, an environment minister, said in a statement, “Plastic is a scourge which blights our streets and beautiful countryside, and I am determined that we shift away from a single-use culture.””
“Steve Hynd, policy manager at City to Sea, an environmental organization based in Bristol, said the ban was welcomed but “these are very much minimum agreed standards.”
“The ban will help England catch up with other countries that already implemented similar bans years ago,” he said. “But for England to be true ‘global leaders’ in tackling plastic pollution like this government claims to be, we need them to go much further.””
I am a curious person (yes, both meanings). When a Brit orders a take-out curry which she intends to eat on a park bench or sitting on a wall overlooking the pebble beach, what is she going to use to eat her curry when the shop no longer gives her a nice plastic spoon or fork?
Since the E.U. has had a similar ban for more than a year, I queried a European colleague and asked the same question. Being the same sort of person as I, he didn’t know. But he has a daughter and he called her for the real scoop on the streets of Europe, who reports: “They use paper (for the fries), cardboard (for serving a burger), wooden spoons, forks, knives for eating a salad.” I can assume that they use the same wooden cutlery for our take-out curry.
Taken in historical context, Europeans (and other humans) have had spoons carved out of wood, ivory, flint, bone and horn. Later spoons were cast in pewter and other softer metals. But all of those (except the wood—even peasants could have a wooden spoon) were quite valuable and in various time periods, represented wealth and social position. Today, most household spoons are stainless steel. But these are not cheap enough to be given away.
New York’s famous food service automat, Horn and Hardart, offered customers metal cutlery which was meant to be returned at the end of the meal. My wife has one of those spoons, nicked by her mother sometime in the mists of history.
When I was child, the Ice Cream Man gave us simple wooden paddles as spoons for eating our little cups of ice cream. Enter the plastic spoon (and fork, and knife), costing less-than pennies apiece and readily given away with take-out food.
The problem appears to be that many of these cheap now-plastic items end up in the environment – not because they are plastic, but because people are not careful with their trash. The fact that they are plastic just means they will breakdown more slowly in the wild.
The declaration that “…plastic is a scourge” is nothing but an activist meme – something said to get positive attention but is not actually true. It is not “plastic” that is the problem – it is trash and litter, some of which is plastic, purposefully thrown into the environment or carelessly allowed to escape – such as blowing out of the back of a pick-up truck (very common in the United States) or off the back of garbage trucks.
Finally, to my point, which is a question (or an impromptu survey, maybe):
To our readers in the UK and Europe:
How’s that plastic cutlery ban working out for you?
What does the curry-take-out (insert your country’s most common take-out food) give you with which to eat your curry?
What kind of container does the curry come in?
What about the salad – container and cutlery?
And your McDs burger – wrapper and container?
And of course,
What’s your opinion about all this?
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I have written about plastic pollution many times. I have viewed hundreds of photos of “beach trash” and collected and surveyed beach trash myself (in Florida, USA). I have reviewed images and reports of “pelagic trash” (trash found floating in oceans). I have not once in any of those photos or reports (or in personal experience) found plastic spoons. (I once found a single plastic knife left by a sunbather on Cape Canaveral Beach.)
Plastic cutlery is not a scourge – anywhere – as far as I can find…certainly not in the advanced nations of Europe and the UK. Nor is it in the United States.
The anti-plastic advocacy is really a sub-set of the anti-fossil fuels and anti-petroleum movement, which at its heart, it anti-human and anti-civilization.
Now we find that the “greens” have moved us into the past once again—back to wooden spoons — or sporks, if you prefer.
Thanks for reading.
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