Plastic – it's convenient, useful and hygenic. It easy and quick to use. But it also lasts forever, never truly breaks down and is accumulating in our oceans and landfill at an alarming rate, killing marine life, harming human health and choking the planet.
I know I’m preaching to the converted here. I know you care deeply about the environment and our precious oceans and soil and all the animals, plants, fishes and birds that live on this Earth.
I'm sure you realise that it's critical to drastically reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce. Yet it is everywhere in our lives. It takes awareness and effort to consciously reduce plastic waste, especially single-use plastics. Those items we use once for a few minutes, mainly for convenience then discard to remain in the environment with diabolical consequences.
Here are some humbling refresher points about plastic:
Plastic Contains Toxins
Some plastics are reasonably safe but many are known to be toxic. Especially PVC or vinyl which contains phthalates and heavy metals. Also BPA – a chemical known to disrupt hormone production.
Plastic and it's associated chemicals have been linked to cancer and many other chronic illnesses.
Plastics Last a Long time
The plastic straw you used for 5 minutes will still be in land fill 200 years from now. The plastic bag you brought the milk home in will last for up to 1000 years. Disposable nappies will still be there 10 generations later. I don't even know how many great-great-greats that is!
Ocean Garbage Patches
An estimated eight million tons of plastic is swept into the sea every year….a little bit is intentionally dumped but much of it is swept down rivers and creeks from storm drains and litter on the sides of roads.
There are massive areas of ocean, swirling with accumulated plastic waste. Much of it is in the form of microplastics which are tiny fragments of plastic.
Marine Animals Suffer
Marine animals and birds get caught in plastic rubbish or mistake it for their food and die horrible deaths. Plastic bags are eaten by animals because they look like jelly fish. Turtles, whales, dolphins and sea birds are often found with stomachs full of plastic. Birds, seals and other animals get entangled or caught in plastic debris. Also because those plastics don't decompose but the animal does....it's possible for the same plastic waste to kill numerous animals, one after the other.
Microplastics – Dubbed the Asbestos of the Future (actually right now)
Plastic lasts forever. It doesn’t biodegrade meaning it never gets broken down by living organisms such as bacteria back to natural organic compounds like say, a fallen tree or a dead animal would.
(I secretly believe that bacteria will evolve to break down plastic. Nature solves all problems eventually but that’s getting ahead of ourselves)
Right now, plastic only photodegrades in sunlight, which means it breaks down in to smaller and smaller fragments. This may sound OK but it’s actually very bad news for every living thing on the planet.
This is what happens……those tiny particles created by the disintegration of larger plastic items such as carrier bags, synthetic clothing, car tyres plus microbeads and other microplastic ingredients found in many toiletries and everyday items, get sucked up or eaten by tiny ocean creatures like plankton and small fishes.
Which in turn are eaten by larger creatures and the microplastics become more and more concentrated in the bodies of fish, birds and animals as you go up the food chain.
I guess it would be pretty bad for the ones at the very top of that food chain…..oh wait….that’s us!
This is a BIG problem.
Especially when you consider that every piece of plastic ever made still exists on this planet. None of it has decomposed and none of it ever will.
Sometimes I just want to fall on the floor and weep especially when I see pictures like this…..(Warning: graphic and upsetting images of what plastic pollution is doing)
But then I remember….we’re the humans! We can choose! I might just be one person. And you might be just one person. And the problem may seem overwhelming. But together all of our human actions and choices have led to the pollution of the planet and together our actions and choices can create a different outcome.
We can make a difference. We can reduce (and hopefully eliminate!) single use plastics in favour of re-useable items. We can create a saner, safer, healthier planet for our animals and children and grand children.
The governments might help but let’s not wait for them to decide. They are clunky, slow moving institutions with varying agendas – not always with human and environmental health on the top of the list!
We can do this. We can set a good example for our children and give them precious hope that someone gives a damn!
Interestingly, the same choices that reduce waste also save us money, make us healthier and more creative people. I bet taking a stand against single use plastics and making better choices also makes you feel really good about yourself and increase your life satisfaction too!
Reducing plastic is a win-win-win situation for the environment, your health, your bank balance and your happiness levels.
The main thing you need is the willingness to plan ahead... even just a little.
Plastic is a habit that just needs practice to break.
Babysteps are the key.
Sometimes you’ll walk out of the shops and look down and realise you forgot to give them your own bag and woops! You’re holding a plastic bag…again! But with awareness and time and practice you'll remember more than you forget.
Here are some things you can do. I call them....
PEH’s - Plastic Elimination Habits!
PEH1. Say no to the straw. Or carry your own stainless steel or glass one.
PEH2. Always carry your own water bottle. (Don’t reuse the plastic ones – they have been shown to leach chemicals with repeated use and exposure to sunlight eg in a hot car). Get yourself a special one and make it your best friend. Never ever leave the house without it.
PEH3. Carry your own travel mug for coffees. Or at the very least, if you forget to bring your own cup, refuse the plastic lid. Or better yet, stop for ten minutes and have your coffee in the café in a real china cup.
PEH4. Take your own shopping bags and remember to take reusable produce bags for your fruit and vegetables instead of those plastic bags on a roll. And certainly don’t buy fruit and vegies wrapped in plastic. What is it with that??
PEH5. Choose clothing made of natural fibres – not synthetic. Synthetic fabrics shed microplastics every time you wash them. Those microplastics end up in the water once again. Synthetic fabrics include nylon, polyester, acrylic, rayon and spandex to name the most common ones.
Choose clothes made of cotton, silk, linen, leather or wool. Natural fibres biodegrade back into earth friendly particles. Basically dirt. You can even cut up your natural fibre clothing and compost it!
PEH6. Switch to a bamboo toothbrush and hairbrush. (Available in store soon)
PEH7. When buying a snack on the go….choose something unwrapped or in an edible container for example an ice cream in a cone, piece of fruit or pastry in a paper bag. Or take along your own napkin or container and ask them to put your food in that instead of a disposable plastic one.
PEH8. Keep a cutlery roll in the car so you never need to use plastic. Make one yourself or purchase one of our handmade ones in store.
PEH9. Use washable nappies. Ditto for sanitary napkins.
PEH10. Ditch the plastic cling film in the kitchen and use Beeswax Wraps, Re-useable Snack Pouches, glass jars and washable bowl covers for all your food covering needs.
PEH11. Make some washable Makeup Remover Rounds and avoid the plastic packaging of disposable ones.
PEH12. Buy food in bulk and divide into smaller re-usable containers at home. For example buy a large tub of yoghurt and divide it up for school lunches instead of buying the smaller 12-pack tubs or those little plastic squeezy tubes.
PEH13. Or make your own yoghurt and snacks at home to avoid packaged food altogether.
PEH14. Go to a bulk food store and fill your own jars or calico bags with basics like flour, nuts, seeds, beans or dried fruit.
PEH15. Grow your own herbs, fruit and vegetables or buy locally from a farmer's market.
PEH16. Cook in bulk and divide into smaller jars or containers for lunches on the go or quick easy dinners.
PEH17. Recycle as much as possible. All plastic is theoretically recyclable. It depends on what your council will accept. Check with your local council to see what can be put in your recycle bin. They usually have all the info on their website under waste management. Or just give them a call. Easy!
As the general rule of thumb if the plastic can be scrunched in a ball it should not go in your recycle bin as it mucks up the whole recycling process. But they can still be recycled!
Redcycle is an organisation that recycles soft plastics…all those food packets, grocery bags and soft plastic packaging and gives them to Replas who turn it into highly durable outdoor furniture, fences and equipment. See! Good things are happening! Click here to find your nearest Redcycle soft plastic dropoff point.
PEH18. Secure your rubbish. If you do put plastics into your kerbside rubbish bin at home, make sure to secure them properly to avoid litter accidentally ending up in storm drains etc.Sometimes accidents or high winds can cause bins to fall over and rubbish spilled.
There's 18 ideas to reduce plastic waste. Don’t be overwhelmed by this list.
Start with one or two of these things and get that habit mastered before moving on to another.
Every little bit helps. And when we consistently refuse single use plastics they just won’t be a viable product. Re-usable will become the norm!
I’m so proud of us. We can do this. We are amazing, clever and creative creatures. With big hearts.