I was reading the report and looking at the pictures put up by Pete after the last beach clean at Crackington and one of them triggered some sort of irony switch in me. It was of an empty Lip Balm dispenser, very much minus its used up and probably now vastly diluted contents to imperceptible and, in the homeopathic medicine style, just ‘atomic memory’ levels in the sea. Aside from if the theory involved in that branch of medicine being in any way correct meaning that anyone who goes in the sea will now possess nice smooth lips as a bonus (emphatically, no), I did wonder about the disconnect and motivations of the original discarder.
By this I mean the logical contradictions that some now happily make in their daily lives, thinking carefully about purchasing ethically then having that care disappear at disposal time and let the result just wash up on a random beach something like this has. This train of thought, and perhaps the only place its happened was in my head just now when I started thinking about it, is triggered by the strapline of the advertising on the packaging used to sell this particular stick of gloop, written proudly below the variety of fruit it’s meant to taste like. It says, ‘100% Natural Lip Balm’.
Now, presumably, because this is what marketing is, the buyer has stood in front of a shelf full of of Lip Balms in a supermarket and is sensitive to the needs of the environment, not wanting to add to the nasty chemicals in the world, or indeed to put them on their face, probably also keen to be seen as being sensitive to these things too. They have a conviction that a 100% Natural product is probably going to be a more ecologically friendly choice than – again presumably, because I really have no knowledge or experience of buying a Lip Balm – another one which is what, only 85% Natural? Unnatural?
Notice also the clear plastic case and the simple printing on the label. This is saying to you ‘I am a simple, no complications product, not for me the needless whizzy typefaces, bright colours, fantastic variety names, no, I am straightforward and as wholesome as nature intended.’ So anyway, they pop this particular one in their trolley.
At the end of its usefulness, after smearing the last application of the vaguely fruity in some strange way, weirdly solid but somehow also greasy goo across their lips – I said no experience of buying, not no knowledge at all of what it feels like – our ecologically sensitive buyer just discards the whole thing, possibly while sitting sunbathing on a beach or just over the side of the boat while fishing. That nice clear and pure looking plastic might actually be recyclable, although it doesn’t show any sign or markings about it on the packaging, but it didn’t get the chance. Yes, they may have accidentally dropped it too, I know, but this is only going on in my head anyway so they discarded it.
So the disconnect is from making the 100% Natural, supposedly ecologically friendly choice in the shop in the first place and then entirely negating that by the end result of throwing the plastic package away. The buyer will also still have chapped lips about 10 minutes after the last balm has gone and so will have to buy yet another stick of balm. Then perhaps they will also add that empty container to the huge rafts of needless, useless plastic junk in the world’s oceans, to join a few less reassuringly filled 85% Natural empty but similarly discarded balm dispensers.
All the care taken in the buying choice, all the clever psychology employed by the manufacturer to reassure, to make the buyer feel good, has resulted in yet another piece of indestructible plastic with no use, bobbing about in the currents. Just the same as all the other bits of indestructible bits of plastic whether it contained something 100% from nature or 100% decidedly nasty.
So the message is, if you’re going to be taken in or at least try to buy both ethically and environmentally responsibly with your brain in the first place, don’t screw the whole thing up on the last little but most important hurdle and just chuck the thing in the sea or leave it on the beach. Buy only stuff in recyclable plastic containers if you can and chuck it in the right bin. It only works if you do all 100% of it, not just some of it.