Everyday Plastic’s Daniel Webb kicks off a series of ‘A Future without Rubbish’ interviews with people who are all part of the movement reducing waste, improving recycling rates and clearing public spaces of litter.
He has really interesting thoughts and experience in plastics’ waste – for us all! For households, councils and government.
Daniel’s small steps in Margate join the long march that we are all on - towards dealing with this problem, for a future without rubbish.
Daniel Webb - © Ollie Harrop 2018. Image courtesy of Everyday Plastic
Clear Public Space: Daniel, Tell me a bit about yourself?
Daniel Webb: I’m a pretty average bloke! I’m not a journalist, scientist, academic etc., just one of the many everyday people who want to see change in how we produce and consume plastic
Clear Public Space: Why did you come up with the idea to save all plastic waste you produced?
Daniel Webb: I moved to Margate - a small town in Kent - from London in 2016, and I immediately noticed the difference in the council’s waste management, collection and recycling. Local authorities outside of London are so much poorer, and with funding cuts from central government, waste services often suffer. I’m not offered recycling in the block of flats where I live, so I saved up all the stuff I threw away and took it to the tip. I asked where the plastic recycling bin was and the bloke just said “throw it in the household waste, mate”.
Quite simply, I was stuck between having to buy my food wrapped in plastic packaging from my local Aldi, and being able to dispose of them responsibly.
Since then, I’ve realised how flawed the recycling system - it barely exists at all [in Margate]. We need to look at producing less and putting the impetus on government and industry.
Clear Public Space: When you started how many bags of waste did you guess you would store/save/collect?
Daniel Webb: I thought I’d end up with around 1 a month, perhaps a little bit more so maybe 14. It turned out to be 22!
Clear Public Space: At what point did you try to reduce your plastic waste and what was the first item you reduced using?
Daniel Webb: I’d already given up plastic water bottles and drinks in 2016. But for the sake of the experiment, I didn’t alter my behaviour over the course of the year, as I wanted the results to be as representative as possible. This became harder and harder as the year went on. The more I learned, the more terrifying the problem became.
Clear Public Space: What item made from plastic do you most treasure?
Daniel Webb: Well, it’s all stuff I’d thrown away, so I don’t treasure any of it! When I was counting and categorising everything, I could barely remember anything that I’d chucked away. This is the scary thing. We don’t have any connection with what we use and consume.
Mind you, I did remember a packet of bolognese flavoured crisps that I’d bought in Rotterdam - delicious.
Clear Public Space: What item made from plastic do you most loathe?
Daniel Webb: Flimsy, useless, pointless, worthless plastic cutlery. Take your own from home If you get your lunch from Sainsbury’s.
Clear Public Space: What item made from plastic is in a grey area (about its existence in plastic) ? and Why? (might be nice and useful enough? Might not?)
Daniel Webb: Let’s not forget that plastic is an incredible invention with amazing qualities, such as durability and flexibility. But those very qualities are also what makes it so damaging. We’re so used to our products being wrapped in plastic, the system is designed around it. Essentially, it’s all a bit of grey area. Fresh food existed before plastic. However, microwave meals, ready meals, processed foods did not...
Clear Public Space: What did you learn from this year of saving all your plastic waste? And what have you changed in your life since?
Daniel Webb: So much, and I am continuing to do so. I met a researcher called Dr Julie Schneider in the early stages of the project. A self-confessed plastic nerd who has taught me loads and exposed me to the deep complexities of plastic pollution.
I am much more resourceful than I was before. I don’t buy new things any more unless I really need them. I confess that I used to like stuff. I’d order any old shit from Amazon or ASOS. Now, I look for alternatives, especially when it comes to packaging.
Clear Public Space: What do you think needs to be changed for all of us to reduce plastic waste?
Daniel Webb: It’s a long list! Not just individuals in the public, but most importantly in the government and industry. Manufacturers need to be responsible for what they produce.
Clear Public Space: The problem is a world problem – are you aware of any initiatives that inspire you to think that it is going to be all right!?
Daniel Webb: There’s lots of inspiring, determined people who are looking to address plastic pollution. From polymer scientists to packaging designers to ocean cleaners, there are a lot of people who want to rid our planet of unnecessary and harmful plastic.
Do I think it’s going to be alright? I hope so. It’ll be a long road and we all have a responsibility to make sure that it’s never off the agenda.
Clear Public Space: Any additional thoughts? Advice? Ideas for the future? Are you excited by any scientific developments? Any government developments? Any council developments? Any Media developments? Any business developments?
Daniel Webb: Whether it’s a research lab developing new polymers, a manufacturer designing reusable packaging or a zero waste shop, there needs to be funding available to encourage and facilitate trade and a burgeoning industry. After all, the fossil fuel industry receives global subsidies to the tune of trillions of pounds annually. Surely there’s a bigger pot available for plastic-free trail-blazers?