The issues surrounding plastics are something that I have cared about since I was 13 when I argued precociously in shops against having a plastic bag. This sometimes resulting in the manager being called. They used to say that unless I had a bag I would be accused of stealing on my way out! I always thought that that was a ridiculous argument and used to march out of shops brandishing my receipt in front of me.
Did you know that plastic bags only been around for about 30 years!
Between one and five trillion plastic bags are produced each year, one to five trillion - just think about that for a second. Most of these are thrown away and an unfathomable number end up in the sea or in landfills where it takes around 500 years to biodegrade.
As an adult I’m afraid that my disdain for plastic hasn’t really dwindled although I do hope that I’m not as self-righteous anymore.
The truth is that I have no right to be because as much as I try, living plastic free is really quite hard. But other brilliant bods like these guys and these guys and these guys are doing it so I thought I should have a go.
My fave discovery was shampoo bars. They're brill! You can buy them from Lush or Living Naturally neither of which use plastic packaging. I’ve foregone conditioner completely, saves time too!
Lush also make toothpaste tabs but I could never get my children to go anywhere near the tabs, so that was ruled out. It is easy to buy a bamboo toothbrush with real bristles but again the children revolted. How much of a dictator should I be?
Forming new shopping habits
I had to form a couple of new shopping habits. I use the greengrocer more and get a veg box. These things mean that packaging is non-existent and my veg is more local.
Milk can delivered in glass, which is great, and I can get bread from the baker in paper. Pasta in cardboard is fairly straightforward (thank you Morrisons).
My family eat a lot of rice (yes, I know rice isn’t very green - sigh) and it all comes in plastic but a brief search and a phone call led me to 25kg of organic basmati that comes in a paper sack; it has lasted over a year now. Happy days - even though I have actually put it in a plastic bin liner to keep it from getting damp! Which leads me to the bin liner problem. Ideally I suppose that my family of 5 wouldn’t produce any landfill but we do and, well, I get a degradable liner.
What about the washing up sponge?
You know, the plastic sponge with the green scourer on - what is that even made of? Pretty sure it’s not degradable. Cotton dishcloth - easy, metal scourer - easy but what about a gentler scourer? Thank you Michael's washing up loofah. They do one for the bathroom too.
Fundamentally it’s about being conscientious and not buying chocolate cookies that have a surprise plastic tray inside the paper-looking packet! I admit that I have become a compulsive packet squeezer.
But avoiding plastic is annoying. It’s everywhere: yoghurt cartons, tops of soy sauce bottles, noodle packets and I think the only solution to mouthwash will be to make it myself. And then there is the moisturiser, veg oil, olive oil, ketchup question. Is the glass bottle really greener when it is so much heavier to transport? One can do without these things and I do say no to the children a lot - poor kids! We definitely consume less now.
The anti plastic movement is on the move! The notion that plastic bags are fine is history and I am no longer considered crazy to refuse one.
There are also numerous campaigns to limit the amount of plastic that enters the waste stream and our water.
The small town of Bundanoon, New South Wales (Australia) enacted a ban of single use water bottles in 2009 and believes it was the first government to do so anywhere. A few more towns, cities and even universities have followed, including San Francisco and Selfridges department store has decided to stop selling single use plastic water bottles. Earlier this year France agreed to ban all single use plastic cups plates and cutlery by 2020.
There is also a big movement to get rid of plastic micro beads that are found in cosmetics and the UK government has pledged to get rid of them by 2017. There are also petitions to ban cotton buds that have the plastic stick . Loads of them end up in the sea. Who’d have thought it?
All in all I don’t feel like I’m completely mad to care so much about plastic pollution or to believe that it is a real problem. That is why I, with my friend Liz, developed Elephant Box. Choose to reuse and be part of the solution.
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Last week we looked at why it is time to start going zero waste, this week we show you how and where to get started.