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How Norfolk can lead the way in sourcing plastic alternatives

PUBLISHED: 20:40 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 20:49 04 July 2019

Nick Conrad says seaweed is a logical alternative to using plastic as it can be dried and used to make products

Nick Conrad says seaweed is a logical alternative to using plastic as it can be dried and used to make products

Archant

How do we save the world from plastic polution? Nick Conrad suggests we look to two local alternatives for a start

As I recently placed my groceries upon the supermarket checkout, I noticed a welcome change. The Morrisons superstore at Cromer has switched from destructive plastic bags to a much more environmentally-friendly paper alternative. Priced at 20p, these sturdy bags do the job just fine. I've long argued that supermarkets need to take the option of plastic away from the consumer. Why are we so reluctant to hit shoppers and businesses in the pocket when they still insist on plastic bags? This combination is the only way to seriously decrease the plastic we are contributing to landfill.

Morrisons are in good company. Earlier this year Sainsbury's announced that customers will soon be able to make use of paper bags while shopping in their bakery section. They can use their own bags or buy reusable ones when purchasing fruit and veg. Waitrose have recently been trialling pasta and rice dispensers which offload the food directly into reusable plastic tubs. These progressive steps will make a significant difference - but in isolation it isn't nearly enough. Yes, the bags have disappeared at the front of the store, but supermarkets are still a sea of plastic.

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The shelves are full of squeezy bottles, containers and clear film and general plastic-laden paraphernalia. My positivity soon drained as I placed a plethora of plastic in my new 20p ethical paper bag. So where is Westminster in all of this? All the major parties are making the right noises; however, the government should provide a greater catalyst for change. I'd suggest a manufacturer's plastic tax. With alternatives already on the market, there is little excuse not to budge towards sustainable packaging. This has the potential to be rather exciting for our county as many of the 'raw ingredients' used in these 
greener alternatives can be sourced in Norfolk.

Now is the time to invest in seaweed and sugar beet. Conveniently both are found in abundance around our county and coastline. As we try to rid our oceans of hazardous plastic waste, it's the very area we are desperately trying to clean which could provide the solution. By fermenting the seaweed, the raw material is released for the production of degradable, recyclable packaging materials.

The demand for plastic is likely to double in the next 20 years. Most plastic is still made from petroleum, but the international community see the need to protect the environment. The very healthy outrage at the state of our oceans is driving the consumer's desires to see meaningful change too. I fear this slow 'evolution' needs a revolution and I'd implore the British government to seize the opportunity of delivering a solution to this sizable problem. This country has a fantastic track record of manufacturing products which develop and progress industry. The bonus is the significant sums of money this can return to the exchequer.

Plastic and trash pollution are at catastrophic levels, which can't be ignored anymore. Most excitingly, our country and county can help to deliver a global solution.

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