Why did you want to take part in a show like Trash Monsters?
Well, I guess recycling has become a hot topic of the last few years and I wanted to learn more about it. Young people know all about it, my children know all about it, but as far as I’m concerned recycling is just knowing what goes in what bin and that’s as basic as it gets, and I still don’t know that! So having the opportunity to learn more about it, not just in terms of what bin to use but also the impact it will have on climate change, I jumped at the chance.
Why do you think you were so bad with ready meals?
It’s just ease of access. When you have kids and a busy life it’s easier to put something in the microwave than cook. If there weren’t as many ready meals on offer then we wouldn’t have a choice. The supermarkets make it so easy for you just to put stuff in the microwave rather than cook. It’s a lot of money that I’m throwing away, I haven’t calculated it but it’s a lot. I think once you understand it, you’ll be able to make better decisions. The more I got into it I realised that even something as simple as the amount of fast food you actually have, the pizzas, all that kind of stuff, it adds up in terms of the packaging they use. We all buy bottles of cola and things like that, as long as we think we’re disposing of them in the right bin, then we feel we’re doing our job. But really that’s not the issue. The problem is I’m buying way too much stuff, we all are, and using too much plastic. If you look at it from an individual point of view and then multiple it by the 60 million we have in this country alone, we see the real problem that we have in the world.
Has the scale of the problem made you worry about our future on the planet?
The thing is, it worries me for my great grandchildren more than it does me. I’m now 57, my son’s 35, my youngest is 10. So maybe in the next 30 years they won’t be affected, and because we don’t know our great grandchildren, we might not have that empathy about the state of the planet they are going to inherit. Of course, we should. I’ve got three young grandchildren now so of course I am starting to think about it, while I think in their lifetime they may not be affected, their children certainly will be. How are they going to feel? We need to have more empathy now for our offspring in the future.
Have your kids tried to educate you?
My youngest are 16, 14 and 10, and when they were younger they were taught about it in school, but I think it’s down to the Government and the educators to do that job. If you look at our big supermarkets they use a lot of plastic, it’s just what they do.
So does the responsibility lie with the individual or on the producers?
I think it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation - would we buy less plastic if it was less available and would the producers stop using so much plastic if we bought it less? It’s so easy for us to buy plastic water bottles and packaging right now, there’s not much alternative, so it’s a complex situation.
Do those big corporations and Governments need to do more?
They could force big changes on us if they simply stopped using plastic, we’d have to adapt, and I think we would. We wouldn’t have a choice. But at the moment, the choice that is easiest for them and us, is plastic. I really do believe we all need to play our part but to really change, the big companies need to change.
What shocked you the most during this experiment?
How devastating plastic is for the environment. For example, a plastic water bottle takes 400 years to disintegrate and there are millions and millions of them all over the planet right now. When you think about what we’re putting in the sea that we don’t see, or in landfill, we don’t think about it, we just do it. But the impact it has on the environment, for me, was a real shock.
Jon took you to a field where he’d laid out all your rubbish from just one week, were you shocked at how much was there?
No because I’ve got lots of kids! It’s just about being aware. I’m not all of a sudden going to go on a guilt trip that I’m destroying the planet because I am no different to anyone else. I can’t sit here and say I’m never going to use plastic again, because I will, it’s not realistic. But I think we need to be more aware and conscious of making smaller changes, like opting for glass bottles instead. I think people get scared because they think it’s an all or nothing choice. It’s just a case of being more responsible and when we can, make better decisions.
Jon puts you in a rubbish suit for a couple of weeks, what was that like?
It was uncomfortable and smelly! I’d put my mind to the fact that it was just something I had to do so I got on with it. There’s no point agreeing to something and complaining about it, I knew what I had signed up to. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t have worn it, but I’d committed to the show and the experiment so I had to wear it.
What was the reaction like from people on the street?
People normally shout at me in the street anyway! I walk around where I live so they are used to seeing me about. I’m used to it having played football for a living but obviously when you’re wearing a suit like that, it’s a little bit stranger to see you in that way. I think they were a bit more curious about what I was up to. A lot of people were interested in it, and I’d explain what I was doing.
They sent you to Tranmere Rovers, what was that like?
It was fine, it wasn’t a football match, it was an open day and, again, people were interested in what I was doing. The more people understand it and the more we talk about it, the more people will make individual changes. So it was good to go around there and engage with people. People were exactly the same as me, just saying they didn’t know enough about it to make a difference. If information was more simple and readily available, then I think more people would make the right decision and take the steps towards changing their lifestyle.
Have you made any big changes in your household since filming the show?
I think it was more about just cutting down on what we buy. I’m not going to all of a sudden say we’re never having a takeaway or plastic. It’s really just about cutting down on the amount we have and making small changes. Will the lesson I’ve learnt be life-changing? Only time will tell because obviously when anything like this happens, you make changes over the next few weeks for the better. If I make these changes and they last for the rest of my life, then of course it will be a lifechanging experience.
Celebrity Trash Monsters: What!s Your Waste Size? airs on Sunday 17th October at 9pm on Channel 4