Mid-last year I blogged about the current attitudes in the UK in relation to single-use plastic. I felt that, even though more people were becoming aware of the harm single-use plastics were causing, we were not at the ‘Tipping Point’ yet.
The Tipping Point is defined as “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” Malcolm Gladwell coined the term in his best selling book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
So have we reached a Tipping Point in the UK now?
In recent months, spurred on by the fact that China is no longer accepting UK plastic waste, single-use plastic has hit the headlines more than ever. I am still gobsmacked that the Government did very little before the 1st January 2018 to try and solve this issue. The Chinese didn’t turn round on the 31st December and say “no more“. The UK government knew this was coming for a while, and yet did not seem to react until far too late in the day. This has resulted in experts warning that the ban is already causing a build up of rubbish at recycling plants around the country.
Scotland has led the way in the UK by planning to ban throwaway plastics by 2030. It is a great start, but what about England, Wales and Northern Ireland? And surely something could be done before 2030? A lot of destruction (and waste) can happen/build-up in 12 years!
In London at least things are moving in the right direction, but far too slowly for my liking. For example, the London Mayor wants to roll out a new network of water fountains and bottle-refill stations across the capital to help reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles. It was done before in Bristol a few years back, but why is this not happening in all cities across the UK?
These are just a few examples, to highlight that change is happening. However, it feels slow, plus rather bitty and disconnected. As Gladwell says in his book: “If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior…you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”
For me, whilst new beliefs around the need to reduce single-use plastics can be expressed freely and are growing in popularity, I am not sure they can be easily practiced. Ultimately, if we need people to stop using single-use plastics, we need to make it easier for them to do so and with our supermarkets still selling virtually everything packaged in single-use plastics, it is hard to go plastic free – believe me, we struggle and have been trying to do it for over a year. It takes a lot of effort!
However, on a positive note, Gladwell also says: “In order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.” Maybe with me and others blogging writing on the subject, with people reading these blogs and talking to their friends, family members and colleagues about the topic area, we can create a lot of small movements. And, if Gladwell is right, maybe that is all we need to gather momentum. Let’s hope he is correct!