The controversial question nobody seems to be asking about single-use plastic alternatives!

Fighting single-use plastics is all the craze right now and, generally, I couldn’t be more supportive of it.

As a SCUBA Diver, Kayak/Canoe Instructor and having done beach clean-ups in the UAE, UK and Borneo I’ve witnessed first-hand the damage we as humans are doing to our oceans. I’ve also seen the damage plastic litter is having in other environments, finding it in the desert and jungle as well as all over wilderness locations in Europe and the UK.

To put things simply; I’m not fond on single-use plastics. But I’m going to get controversial.

Is paper really the best alternative?

Many major businesses are vowing to reduce or completely remove single-use plastics from their operations, including McDonald’s replacing plastic straws with paper in the UK and Ireland and many UK supermarkets replacing plastic bags with paper ones but this all seems a little short-sighted; a knee-jerk reaction to the current anti-plastic social trend.

Paper cannot be a long-term solution. Ten years ago the social trend for the environmentally-conscious was deforestation. It faded out of the public eye and, come 2018, everybody seems to have forgotten and started seeing paper as a miracle material for packaging.

“Paper takes 6-18 months to biodegrade and is recyclable whereas plastic takes 50-500 years and is considerably less recyclable than people think” is the quote I keep getting from many of my environmentally-conscious friends. Yes – they’re correct – I’ve used this quote too when delivering Environmental Awareness sessions to schools. But it only tells half the story.

News break! Deforestation is still a huge global issue!

With global deforestation rates still ridiculously high this new demand for paper will surely hammer our forests hard, removing vital ecosystems worldwide. Just check out this 2008 article  on the production demands of a paper bag to see what I mean.

I’m not writing this today claiming to have a better idea or saying we should keep using plastic; if I had all the solutions I’d be a much richer man. I’m just amazed that nobody seems to be questioning the use of paper as an alternative.

That’s about all I have to say on the issue for now but be sure to follow my Environment section for further commentary.

Also, don’t forget to check out my Instagram for occasional environmental posts slotted amongst my travel and adventure photography reel.

Rich 🌲🙏🏽