Plastic is everywhere. If you take a quick look around the area you are in right now, how much plastic can you see? Of those items, how many are single-use? Thankfully, when I do that now I see no disposable items but I know that just a few months ago the story would have been different.
Lucy took on the Plastic Free July challenge last year and that’s how I heard about it. Since then I have learned about the impact of plastic on the planet and have made some changes, both big and small, in the way I live in order to do my bit to reduce it.
If you haven’t heard of Plastic Free July, it’s a yearly challenge that aims to raise awareness of the reasons why disposable plastic is downright awful and encourages folk to do something about it.
Just to get you in the mood, here are some reasons why plastic is bad:
- Plastic is made from oil. Maybe I’m a proper idiot but I didn’t really realise this until recently. I do know where oil comes from though. And that it’s not a brilliant industry. So for your plastic Coke bottle/salad box/coffee lid etc., oil has to be drilled from the ground, processed in a factory (insert carbon emissions here) and shipped to a factory somewhere else (more carbon emissions), then to you. You then consume the product within and throw the receptacle ‘away’. Doesn’t that seem crazy to you?
- “But I recycle my plastic!” I hear you cry. Well I’m sorry to burst your bubble but that’s nowhere near a solution. Plastic recycling in the UK is routinely shipped to China (yep, carbon emissions a-go-go) where they then use some of it to make lower grade plastic items, which will not themselves be recyclable. What happens to the rest? Ummm, landfill or incineration I’m afraid guys.
- Yes, some of our plastic waste remains in the UK, but the vast majority goes to landfill here. This is bad.
- The stuff that doesn’t make it to landfill ‘escapes’ from the system and makes the tragic journey through our waterways and out to sea. Items likely to end up this way include straws, cotton buds, drinks bottles, balloons and bags.
- Once in water, animals eat it. Then they die. They die because of our plastic. By 2050, scientists predict that the plastic in our oceans will outweigh the fish. Think about that.
- Plastic which breaks down over time never disappears. Let me repeat that. It is never gone. There is no ‘away’. When you throw out a piece of plastic – in the recycling or regular bin – it will exist forever. Every single piece of plastic ever made still exists right now.
Felling overwhelmed? Confused? Angry? Motivated? Great! Lets do something to improve this diabolical state of affairs by taking the Plastic Free July pledge.
How? Ok, well, what you choose to do is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong way. This challenge isn’t about perfection, it’s about striving to do better for our planet and it’s future.
If you’re starting out, tackle the big four:
- Always carry your own bags. We all tend to do this when visiting supermarkets but try taking it a step further by having a couple on you at all times. You’ll be amazed at how much you use them.
- Ditch single-use bottles. I’m a water drinker so this was easy for me as you can top up a reusable water bottle anywhere for free. If you have a dependence on pre-bottled soft drinks, make it your goal to address this. Generally they are not good for us and I’m sure we can all agree that companies like Coca-Cola are best avoided at all costs. If you can’t deal with non-flavoured drinks just yet, switch to glass bottles and cans, which are more likely to be recycled. You can buy cordial in glass bottles too if that tickles your fancy.
- If you’re a caffeine fiend, take a reusable cup out and about with you. Take away coffee cups seem to have become somewhat of a fashion statement in recent years. This is nuts. Most people are not sooooo busy that they can’t afford to sit down and drink from a mug for 10 minutes. And if you must drink and walk, you absolutely have to invest in a reusable cup. Don’t worry fashionistas, they come in trendy colours and stuff.
- Refuse plastic straws. For most adults, straws are 100% unnecessary. If you have need for a straw, invest in some reusable ones. It takes a bit of getting use to asking for no straw in your drink but I promise it will become automatic in time.
So what are you waiting for? Get started today! Over the month we will be posting tips on our Instgram page and writing here about how you can take your plastic waste reduction even further. I know this post has been a bit doom and gloom (sorry about that) but honestly, Lucy and I find the challenge of plastic waste reduction is actually pretty fun. Treat it like a game and when you manage to refuse or replace a plastic item, you get an imaginary gold environmental coin. Or something like that. Think I’d better stop for now…
We’d love to hear and share any tips you have too so please do get in touch.
Finally, please do check out the Plastic Free July website to find out more about the challenge. It’s full of tips and information to help you, including their great action picker, which will help you choose a challenge that is suitable for you right now. Good luck!
All photos are from www.onegreenplanet.org