Lucy Siegle
Turning the Tide on Plastic: How Humanity (And You) Can Make Our Globe Clean Again
Hatchette, Australia, 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1409182986

Turning the Tide

 

"Part of the charm of Siegle’s approach is that she’s not advocating an all or nothing response. Rather, it’s about taking what steps you can and being realistic in changing your behaviour for the long term."

The facts are startling. The equivalent of a truckload of plastic is poured into the world's oceans and waterways every minute of every day, equating to some eight million tonnes a year. There is now an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans and by 2050, the number of pieces of plastic there will outnumber the fish.

It’s with those figures in mind that British journalist, broadcaster and now "eco lifestyle expert" Lucy Siegle tackles the issue of plastic in this helpful book which, at its core, is all about how you can make a difference.

The first part of the book sets the scene, illustrating the problem though statistics like those above and give a broad view of what's being done to address it.

It charts the history of plastic from its invention in 1866 by Englishman Alexander Parkes through to - thanks to its usefulness, flexibility and almost indestructibility - its pervasive and, sometimes, ludicrous, use today (shrink-wrapped whole coconut anyone? Yes, as Siegle relates, that really happened).

Siegle examines the ever-proliferating different types and uses of plastic and the dangers each pose to the environment and there's also an exploration of what efforts are being made to recycle it as well as a look at what happens when waste plastic does enters our seas - the vast Great Pacific Garbage Patch, one of numerous swirling islands of plastic in the Pacific known as ‘gyres’, is one place it ends up, including the harm it does to wildlife.

But it’s in the second half of the book that Siegle really tackles what we can all do to help, with a eight point plan of attack known as the '8R steps' – Record, Reduce, Replace, Refuse, Reuse, Refill, Rethink, Recycle.

How far you go is up to you but the tips range from simple things like no longer using plastic straws and taking a reusable cup for your coffee when out and about to those which involve a little more work, such as going ‘naked’ – buying goods which don’t come in plastic wrappers but which you can put straight into your reusable bag at the shop – and using the power of your voice to lobby organisations like airlines to reduce their use of plastics.

Following these steps may at first seem overwhelming but part of the charm of Siegle’s approach is that she’s not advocating an all or nothing response. Rather, it’s about taking what steps you can and being realistic in changing your behaviour for the long term.

The book also contains a template for keeping an initial “plastic diary” so you can gain an understanding of the role plastic plays in your situation, and there’s a further resources section with a wealth of other places to go for more information – handy for furthering your knowledge of how to help.

While Siegle’s book relates to the British context, her research is largely transferrable – we face many of the same issues when it comes to plastic across world.

This is essentially a call to action and it only works if we all get involved. As Siegle concludes: “By joining together in constructive, concerted action, we all have to hope that there’s a beach clean in the future [an event in which a group, often annually, scours a beach to pick up waste plastic] where we struggle to gather even a single bag of waste. That’s when we’ll know that we have truly turned the tide.”

The hardback and ebook are out now. The paperback is released in Australia in December.