After watching a David Attenborough documentary with his gran on the amount of plastic in the in the Pacific Ocean, 8-year-old Jack Adams felt angry and concerned about plastic pollution and the effect this is having on our wildlife. Jack wanted to make his feelings known to the Government, so his mother suggested he write to their local MP, Tony Lloyd.
In his letter to the Rochdale MP, Jack, from Healey, wrote that “91% of the plastic on the Earth is not recycled. Instead it is dumped on the Earth and in the Ocean, and the earth itself is becoming a dump.
“Animals are being harmed by the plastics, and it’s not fair. To conclude this letter, please change the food packaging to paper. Yours, Jack Adams (age 8).”
Tony Lloyd said: “I was so pleased that Jack cared enough to write to me about this, and it’s so inspiring to see young people care about the environment and the future of our planet.
“The same week I received Jack’s letter I also received an invitation from Plastic Patrol to join in with their clean-up event on the banks of Rochdale Canal. I got in touch with Jack’s parents to ask if they wanted to come along as it would be a great opportunity to meet Jack and talk about his letter.”
The following weekend, Tony met Jack with his sister Isabel and their mum Clare, at the Plastic Patrol clean up event on the banks of Rochdale Canal.
Tony said, “The clean-up was a great success and one litter picker even found a Mars bar wrapper priced at 19p, which she shared on Twitter.” Twitter users were quick to point out that the last time a Mars bar cost 19p was in the late 1980s, which shows how long non-recyclable plastics last after use.
Following the clean-up event, Tony invited Jack and his mum, Clare, to his office to meet with Arron Dixon. Arron founded The Paper Concept, a Rochdale-based family business that makes affordable biodegradable straws, party and ecoware, to talk about how businesses can reduce the amount of single-use plastic packaging they use.
“Things that we think of as non-recyclable usually are recyclable. Stained paper is biodegradable, and will degrade in 3-4 months, so the idea that paper straws can’t be recycled simply isn’t true,” said Arron. “Recycling is not as effective as it can be, and my company makes plastic-free items using recycled kraft paper.”
Arron’s company contributed to this year’s Rochdale Food Festival, which was plastic free for the first time. All food was served in compostable sugar cane cartons or on sugar cane plates that are heat resistant and greaseproof, and used wooden cutlery. Drinks were served in 100% paper cups with paper straws, and the table linings were made from 100% kraft paper. Everything used to serve food and drinks at the festival was home compostable.
Together, we discussed Jack’s ideas on how he can locally campaign to make a change, starting with his own school in Healey by arranging litter-picking events at playtime. Jack talked about making recycling posters which could be posted around the school, and Arron offered to print Jack’s designs for free using environmentally friendly printing ink and paper.
Tony Lloyd said: “It’s the Jack Adams of today whose futures are most on the line. They are right to feel let down by the generations before them, and it’s inspiring to see him, and other children across the world, make their voices heard.
“The Centre for International Environmental Law predicts that by the year 2050, when Jack will be 39-years-old, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish. The seriousness of plastic pollution has never been more urgent.”
The Government announced that the Environment Bill will include powers to enable a deposit return scheme (DRS) for some drinks containers and to enact extended producer responsibility schemes, where producers are required to pay the total cost of disposal for their products.
Tony said, “It is disappointing that we have to wait until 2023 for these schemes and that a 75% recycling rate will not be met before 2030. I’ve written to Theresa Villiers MP, the Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, urging her to give serious consideration to Jack’s concerns and to ask what steps she will to take to end single-use plastic.