Christmas shows our approach to climate change is crackers

With all the talk of the green surge in the local and European elections earlier this year, and the school strikes for climate, and Greta Thunberg, and climate action plans, and the growing impact of the Extinction Rebellion folks, you might be forgiven for thinking that, when it comes to caring about the environment, Irish people have turned the corner.

Then Christmas comes and it quickly becomes clear that such thoughts are nonsense. Nothing exemplifies the almost comical waste of Christmas past and present and as the cracker.

About 15 million such things will be pulled in Ireland between now and the time all the ho-ho-hos dry up. Along with the useless jokes and the flimsy paper hats and the disappointing snap the in-built explosives make, most of the crackers will come with a rubbish plastic novelty that had been shipped over from China.

At best the plastic novelty will be looked at for maybe 15 seconds before being added to the mountain of festive detritus that accumulates in homes around the country each year. At worst, it won’t attract so much as a second glance before making its way slowly to landfill or the sea.

Of course, Ireland is not alone. In the UK it is much worse: across the water more than 150 million crackers will be pulled and the mountain of plastic will be much larger.

But even that is dwarfed by the environmental impact the cracker will have in the United States, Australia, Canada and all the other countries where Christmas is celebrated – at least in part – by the pulling of cardboard tubes and the immediate discarding of their contents.

A billion crackers

We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that before the last of the Auld Lang Synes are sung, a billion crackers will be pulled. In a world trying to tackle climate change and fighting to stop plastics leaching into water and then into fish and then into our bodies, that is not crackers, it is insane.

And it is an insanity that all of us – or at least most of us – have allowed this to happen for donkey’s years without even thinking of saying: “Hang on a second, is this really the best use of our resources?”

But when it comes to crackers a change is coming. Slowly. A couple of weeks back two of the biggest retail chains in the UK announced that they were removing plastic toys from crackers or at least they are planning to.

Waitrose and John Lewis are the retailers in question but in making the announcement they said the lead-in time for buyers is so long that they have missed the boat this year so it will be 2020 before the say goodbye to the plastic toys.

If only someone had known that plastic wasn’t doing the environment any good this time last year, eh?

Plastics campaigner for Friends of the Earth Julian Kirby welcomed the moves by the two retailers while challenging “all supermarkets to give us the gift of a Christmas completely free of unnecessary plastic”.

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