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From awareness to action

Book review | Turning The Tide On Plastic - by Lucy Siegle

Lucy Siegle clearly knows what she is talking about. You may recognise her from BBC1’s The One Show, where she is a voice of authority on all things eco-living. Her latest book, Turning The Tide On Plastic, pulls together the many different aspects of the plastic issue as well as outlining her guide to change.

Lucy starts off with an interesting overview of our relationship with plastic. From plastic’s discovery to the ins and outs of UK recycling, Lucy does a good job of assessing our current situation. Little anecdotes from her reporter days, which include confronting Gordon Ramsay about singe use plastic straws, and the results of unusual experiments, such as going through families’ rubbish, help bring the issues to life. Even when I felt I’d heard the warnings before, the statistics still hit home. By 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish. Yikes. I also enjoyed the mentions of national policy changes as they illustrate the evolution of our attitudes and demonstrate where the UK sits against the backdrop of global recycling and waste efforts. In short, we can do better.

The next step is to turn awareness into action. Not only does Lucy talk the talk but she walks the walk herself, such as battling with Morrisons on their unnecessarily plastic wrapped coconuts (and winning). The remaining two thirds of the book outlines her guide for change and I certainly appreciate her focus on solutions. Her method is summarised as “Record, Reduce, Replace, Refuse, Refill, Rethink, Recycle”. Phew. Lucy starts off trying to persuade you to record all the plastic your household uses for at least two weeks under “Record”. Whilst I can see that this kind of confrontation of reality will be extremely valuable for tackling your personal problem areas, I do wonder how many people will commit to such an exercise. I would like to do it myself, but I suspect that I might meet some resistance from the rest of my family. Plus, I confess I could do without the hassle.

The following Rs were much more familiar. As I’ve had a personal interest in reducing my plastic consumption for some time now, many of the suggestions and swaps were not revolutionary to me. But that’s not to say I didn’t learn anything. On the contrary, there are so many campaigns, brands and charities who’s work I’ve been ignorant to, notably Surfers Against Sewage (who certainly are about more than sewage and are more than surfers). Seeing the long lists of these under ‘Further Resources’ fills me with hope. People do care about this issue. People are doing something about it.

I would recommend Turning The Tide On Plastic to anyone beginning to explore the issue with plastic as Lucy looks at it from many different angles, giving you a very well-rounded understanding for the size of the book. I also appreciate the depth of Lucy’s knowledge of the UK’s part in the problem and solutions, so this book would be a good signpost if you are looking to become more of an activist on this issue. Overall, an up-to-date, balanced and accessible read. And I think I might have found a new role model.

By Rachel

Community Champion


Sustainable Merton are pleased to say we have a copy of Turning The Tide On Plastic in our library, which is available to borrow. Please email to check the availability and arrange collection.

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