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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Woman with genetic disorder says single-use plastic is 'vital' to her life

Its use has vastly improved her life and given her a level of independence that would not otherwise be possible

Single-use plastics are widely used for good reason. A ban on single-use plastics would dramatically change some people’s lives – and for some, not for the better.

Shona Cobb, 20, from Hertfordshire in England, is a disabled activist and blogger who has Marfan syndrome.

The use of single-use plastics has revolutionised her life and given her a level of independence that would not otherwise be possible.

Ms Cobb is unable to grip a knife or apply the pressure needed to cut up fruit and vegetables, so she relies on pre-prepared fresh produce to maintain a healthy diet. These washed and chopped foods last longer thanks to their plastic packaging.

“Having these pre-chopped up fruit and vegetables are probably the only reason I eat reasonably well. If it weren’t for these products, I’d probably be living off ready meals,” she said.

“What some people see as pointless is actually vital for some people’s lives,” she said. For her to visit the shops every day to pick up fresh food is simply not possible.

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But even for Ms Cobb, who relies on these products, she believes changes need to be made.

“We are definitely using too much plastic and I don’t think any disabled people would disagree on that. I would love to see supermarkets using alternatives that are recyclable.”

It is this move to make plastics easier to recycle or reuse that Dr Erik van Sebille believes holds the key to tackling the problem.

The amount of plastic we are seeing in the ocean right now is marginally harmful,” he said.

The real concern for Dr van Sebille is the increase in the amount of plastic that will be used, with projections suggesting that in the next five years more plastic will be produced than in the entire previous century.

He said that it is vital to find ways to plug the gaps that allow plastic to end up in the ocean, and only then should efforts turn to cleaning up what is already in the water.

“I’m still hopeful. I don’t think that what’s in the ocean now is Armageddon, but if we don’t do anything about it then in five to 10 years the situation might change. We really are on a tipping point here.”