Review: Turning the Tide on Plastic

Cover of 'Turning the Tide on Plastic' by Lucy Siegle‘There is no silver bullet’, we are told in the introduction to Lucy Siegle’s new and necessary book on plastic waste, ‘Turning the Tide on Plastic’.

Siegle, who is an environmental journalist with the Guardian and a reporter on The One Show, sensibly doesn’t try to produce an encyclopaedia, but chooses a narrative structure, which follows her own journey in plastics over a number of years. This is instructive for anyone attempting to adjust and rationalise plastic use within a personal, moral or environmental project. It’s also important to follow the history, the politics and the resulting insanities of our society’s relationship with plastics, at least as much as grasping any technical points.

In the process Siegle compiles in context a useful arsenal of frightening statistics to arm any potential plastics campaigner or refusenik. You need to take notes as you read. I picked up plenty of new numbers to quote; I’m grateful for these as well as for a new, convincing waste hierarchy, featuring no less than eight Rs, none of them ‘recovery’.

Topic coverage is quite comprehensive. Nurdles (plastic pellets), microfibres, ocean gyres, soap dispensers, refilling, single-use PTT (pots, tubs and trays), cling film, polypropylene in teabags (yes, really), carbon counting, relationship to oil, MRFs and separability, mixed waste export, how energy-from-waste somehow became recovery; it’s all in there. Plus, there are many good ideas about how to organise yourself to resist or manage your plastic. I like that Siegle manages to be both evangelical and personal. She offers to ‘get between you and your plastic addiction’ and succeeds without being too preachy.

My recommendation is unqualified. This book is well worth its price, now out in paperback at £8.99. If you want to know the current state of play with plastics, start by buying a copy of this book and read it cover to cover.

Andy Moore is the former head of the Campaign for Real Recycling (CRR) and a Green Party campaigner in the Forest of Dean.

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