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Polythene Pam

The annual August bank holiday scarecrow trail is a popular jaunt for many people in York. Sanitised cards on the table: I’ve never actually entered before, being a reasonably antisocial and curmudgeonly sort of person at home, in contrast to my angel-like demeanour in the consulting room. The idea of anyone inspecting my front garden and commenting on my artwork is a little scary, however, this year I have a particularly pertinent point to make.

Firstly, if you’re out on the prowl and see my entry, let me tell you that I don’t live at the beautiful Ascot House (wow, that would be a sweet deal, living the 19th-century dream! Let's call that 'plan B', yes?). No friends, owner June was kind enough to offer me her garden in a bid to showcase what is really a world-first: absolutely zero hay has been harmed in the making of my scarecrow. That’s right, it's stuffed with my item du jour, which is of course…drumroll please…plastic!

Using crisp packets and biscuit wrappers for arms and legs, and bread bags, frozen veg (read chips) packets and lateral flow test packaging for the head and body, and more crisp packets for the slightly frazzled-looking scrag (modelled on yours truly!), we were able to create something quite amusingly poignant. And of course milk bottle tops for the exceptionally lifelike and detailed facial features. Ahem.

Look, I’d quite like to win so please vote for me if you can! Because it’s not really a win for me, it’d be a shout-out for anyone interested in keeping our planet and landscape looking clean and healthy, and trying to reduce the reliance on unnecessary excessive plastic. Remember folks, the solution to our mountain of plastic items is not to continue - in the way our government does with empty promises - churning them out at lightning speed, but to reuse and recycle what we have. So, to all the manufacturers of those plastic bags that say “not currently recycled”, I wonder, with an eyeroll, what their gossamer-thin justification is? We know that it’s possible to make plastic that is recyclable, or plastic-like materials that are compostable. Many of us have kitchen caddy bags that with breakdown over time, so what’s stopping shops from using similar materials?

Sceptical about the link to climate change? Well friends, waste and recycling are important here. They contribute to landfill and this impacts the quality of the soil and the plants and animals that live within it. The entire underground ecosystem! So it's important to limit the amount of plastic that we throw away. That's why you'll see different coloured bin bags in every clinical room in your GP surgery and hospital. Climate change doesn’t just mean polar bears playing musical chairs with a single melting glacier, or starving children in drought-stricken countries in Africa. These images are truly devastating, though understandably often feel so far away that we can’t contemplate them as being real. So let me tell you what does feel very real here: flooding. And this is largely due to what’s going on underground, in our soil. In York we’re used to annual winter floods that damage properties along the riverside and cause a huge amount of financial strain on people and businesses. And the next 30 years that will increase (warmer weather will mean warmer seas and therefore more rain, which will fall on our urban areas and run off our patios and roads (sob) and increase our sea and river levels before they can cope with it), and we’re going to see a lot of people migrating from the Humber estuary and East Yorkshire coast into nearby inland towns and cities. More pressure on housing. Loss of green spaces perhaps? Job shortages. Stretched healthcare services. I'm passing you a tissue and sending hugs.

Well, you, lovely reader, perhaps you saw my scarecrow? I hope she made you smile at least, and that you enjoyed the other (slightly less-)brilliant (*winks*) entries. Well, your challenge now is to think about plastic in your home. Can you make sure all the soft stuff goes to supermarket recycling? Could you switch a regular item that involves non-recyclable plastic to a refill instead? Tell me about it at @GreenLifeGP, and feel polythene-proud!

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