Last year she published a new book called ‘Turning the Tide on Plastic’ (Orion Books). It is a much-needed call to arms to end the plastic pandemic, including useful tools on how to make meaningful change in our everyday lives and advice on how to demand long-lasting action.
The Colour of Money spoke with Lucy at the Abergavenny Food Festival, where she was hosting a panel debate sponsored by Triodos Bank. She will feature at this year's Hay Festival at a special 'Green Hay Forum' on 23 May, also supported by Triodos.
What prompted you to write ‘Turning the Tide on Plastic’?
I wrote the book because I could feel the heat around the issue. So many people were asking questions and everybody wanted to do something. But it felt like nobody knew strategically what to do. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to look very closely at the plastic manufacturing chain right through to the consumer end, and so with the book I set out partly to provide an explanation about plastics - how they are made and how they came to be so prevalent in our lives. And partly to be a simple ‘how-to’ that provides guidance on how to kick the habit of single-use plastic.
When did you realise plastic was a big issue?
I started looking in detail at plastic as far back as 2005. At that point we were talking about packaging around consumer goods a lot. In the UK, we have a big supermarket culture - that is where we get most of our food. Added to that a massive ‘on the go’ culture has grown almost out of nowhere, generating coffee cups, plastic cutlery and more.
Looking back, I realise that I was being completely fobbed off by the retailers, manufacturers, policy makers and recyclers. They said that it would all be fine. But it clearly isn’t. Now I feel I have a mandate to talk about this issue.
Will you keep your focus on plastic?
Yes, for sure. It’s a huge issue that I have become focused on now. People keep on asking me what they can do about it. I find it is the same with fashion, as that’s an area I’ve also chosen to focus on. We start to realise that everything is interconnected. We have microplastics coming out of clothes when synthetic fibres are washed, they shed microfibres which are a massive part of the plastic issue.
How does it all fit together for you?
I think this is part of late-stage capitalism. The environmental effects of how we consume and how we function needs to align with our planetary boundaries. That guides me to think about where we should be going - working in sustainability, it is simply about preparing people for the future.
We have never experienced such rapid change. Negative in terms of climate, but also positive in terms of areas like renewable energy and electric vehicles. What we all need to be doing is preparing ourselves for change, less loaded with fear and more loaded with opportunity.
‘Turning the Tide on Plastic’ (Orion Books) is out now from all good bookshops.
Lucy will feature at Green Hay Forum at Hay Festival sponsored by Triodos Bank on Thursday 23 May 2019. Six events throughout the day will focus on the way we produce, supply and package the food we eat, the impacts those processes have on our planet and the ways in which the narrative is decided. More information here.
About Lucy Siegle
Lucy is an independent writer and journalist (broadcast and print). She specialises in communicating earth science and environmental stories and ethical consumerism. From 2004 to 2018 she wrote a weekly Ethical Living column in the Obsever Magazine and set up the Observer’s annual Ethical Living awards, attracting thousands of entries across the UK. Lucy Siegle is also known as a TV as a reporter and presenter on BBC1’s The One Show, and has been reporting on the problem of single use plastic since the show began in 2007. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.