Wednesday, 17 August 2022

No more plastic in shops please

I READ recently about a beach warden in Somerset who found an old Fairy Liquid bottle washed up with the tide about four years ago.

The warden was amazed how it looked almost new but the slogan “4d off” printed on it proved that it was at least 47 years old.

According to Greenpeace’s Living with Less Plastic handbook, supermarkets are putting more plastic on their shelves than ever before, using 114 billion pieces of single-use plastic.

Last month we took part in the Big Plastic Count and were shocked to find we disposed of 30 bits of plastic in a week.

The majority of that was from food and drink — bottle tops, lids from yoghurt pots, bread bags and plastic wrapped around cucumber.

Multiply that by 52 and you get 1,560 pieces of plastic just from one couple who try really hard to avoid plastic as much as possible.

Multiply that number by the number of households in Britain and that island of plastic rubbish floating in the Pacific Ocean three times the size of France will be the size of Europe in no time.

Lately I have been making my own healthy breakfast cereal (The Clever Guts Recipe Book if you are interested). It tastes a lot nicer than mass-produced cereal and is a lot more nourishing.

I buy the dry goods from the Willow Basket in Friday Street, which provides an excellent refill service. Just take along your own containers to fill up on herbs, spices, grains, dried fruit and a lot more.

Another place to visit for refills in Henley is Four State, the zero waste shop in Duke Street. It stocks Fill products made sustainably in Northamptonshire in glass bottles or you can take your own bottles to fill up on laundry and washing up liquid and the like.

Some of you may remember Vim and Ajax cleaning powder that came in cardboard tubes with a metal top with holes in for shaking it out.

I was reminded of that when I found a jar of scrub powder (pulverised marble) marketed by Raw, a branch of the Fill company. Add it to water and you have got your own version of the abrasive cleaner known as Cif.

The shop also sells refillable bottles of castile soap, bicarbonate of soda, citric acid and vinegar so you can make your own simple and effective cleaning products without using unnecessary chemicals and plastic packaging. All the refills come in glass jars.

It’s good that we have these two retailers that give us a choice in the way we shop and live but wouldn’t it be great if they weren’t such a rarity? Then when we entered any shop in the town we would know that nothing they sold caused harm to people, nature or the environment.

Rather than increasing their use of single-use plastics, our supermarkets could be leading the way in reducing their carbon footprints. They could refuse to sell anything packaged in unnecessary plastic.

They could also guarantee that all their products had been fairly traded and without the use of child labour.

They could honestly say that nothing in their stores had been farmed in huge swathes of land where the local human and wildlife occupants were forcibly displaced by agribusiness to make way for acres of mono-culture like soya or palm oil.

They will have to do this some day, so why don’t they start now?

THE Wildlife Trusts have set up a campaign for the month of June called 30 Days Wild to get us outdoors and appreciating nature.

Some of their suggestions are for simple things to do like having breakfast outside, listening to birdsong or sketching something in nature.

Easy to do on your own but if you want to involve friends or family how about going on a bug hunt or visiting Warburg, our local Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Bix?

I particularly like the suggestion of sensory bingo, which the Wildlife Trust has developed alongside Victa, the charity for blind children and young adults. All lovely ideas whether you are three or 93.

Finally, here is something pleasant to do on a summer’s evening. Go down to Thames Side or Riverside and watch the swifts doing their aerial displays feeding on flying insects above the river.

The Henley Swifts Support Group counted a group of 17 of these amazing birds on our recent swifts walk.

If you would like to know more about any of the things mentioned in this column, please email or

Diana Barnett

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