Saving the planet, one crisp packet at a time

Hi Grace. Thanks for taking some time out to chat! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Of course! I’m 24 and currently studying my Master’s degree in Child Development at Kingston University. I live with my parents and long term family friend. I’ve been very fortunate to have a loving family who frequently go on mission to Kenya and Romania and were brave enough to take me with them from the age of 3. Being exposed to such contrasting cultures has allowed me to grow up appreciating everything I have, as well as becoming increasingly passionate about the world we live in.

You recently started a crisp packet collection on your road. Could you tell us what it’s about and why you started it?

I have always been passionate about the environment and am always trying to do my part. But I recently noticed that people believe they can’t change anything as an individual. I wanted to disprove this theory. So after some extensive research, I found a company called TerraCycle who collect items that can’t be recycled in your local area. You pick an item you want to collect and you send it off to their company for free. Out of everything on their list, I decided crisp packets would be the best item to start with.

I then wrote a letter and delivered it to every house on my road. I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I would get, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. A few people responded straight away, with others responding more recently. Now I collect from ten houses on my road and four houses from nearby roads. I was so surprised at the positive response I received. People have even put their workplaces to be collected from.

So, why crisp packets?

I did some research and found out one crisp packet alone takes eight decades to decompose. On average, as individuals we consume 1.5 crisp packets a week. If we say there are on average three people living in each house and times that by the number of houses on the road, that’s a total of 1,800 crisp packets per month, minimum! Crisp packets aren’t currently recyclable, which means that every month 1,800 packets are being sent to landfill or our oceans to slowly decompose. And that’s just my road alone!

That is a huge problem! What first made you realise plastic waste is such an important issue?

While I have been aware of global warming and its implications from a young age, plastic waste has recently become more highlighted to us in the media. If researchers can find plastic particles in every fish in the deepest part of the ocean, then I think it’s clear we have a massive problem on our hands. What’s great is that more and more companies are coming up with new ways to solve the issue, and also making it easier for us to help as individuals.

How does faith impact your view of taking care of creation?

To me it’s obvious – God created this fascinating, diverse, beautiful planet for us to live on, and when I see other people and creatures suffering because of our actions, it makes me feel awful. Naturally I want to do as much as I can to help.

Do you have any tips for reducing waste?

I want to make clear is that I’m not perfect. I don’t always look for a recycle label when buying items (sometimes I just forget – it happens to everyone) and I sometimes use plastic straws etc. I believe that while we can try our hardest to change the way we live to be more environmentally friendly, companies also need to step up and change their ways. However, there are a few tips I would recommend:

  1. If you look on a piece of plastic, it will have the recycling label on it and inside will be a number. If that number is 5 or less, it can’t be recycled.
  2. Be cautious about what you put in your recycling bin. Because once you put something in there that can’t be recycled, everything else in it can’t be either and will go to landfill instead.
  3. Remember to properly clean out any recyclable items that have had food on them. If they’re placed in the recycling bin without being thoroughly washed, the rest of the items in the bin can’t be recycled either. It’s something to do with the metal machines not being able to pick the items out.
  4. Check your local council website or search for recycling tips, as you’ll be surprised at what you don’t know!

Do you do anything else on top of your crisp packet collection?

I have recently started a petition to stop clothes companies from using multiple plastic bags within their deliveries. With multiple decomposable options available, there is no need to use multiple non-recyclable plastic bags in one delivery.

You can sign the petition here.

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