Perhaps there’s something in the water (no pun intended), but a number of the bloggers and vloggers I read/watch have written about plastic waste, the impact it’s having on marine life, and the need to cut the volume produced. With that in mind, I’ve spent a few days becoming more aware of the plastics I use on a regular basis, and – frankly – I’m shocked at how much of it there is in my life.
The option to run off into the wild and start a homestead, living an entirely carbon-neutral, closed cycle existence isn’t available to me; I’m a suburban kid at heart and an inveterate geek, but I can and should do something to reduce the severity of my impact on the Earth. Plastic-free isn’t an option – there’s just too much of it in modern life (also: the lenses in my glasses are plastic, and I like being able to see), but a reduction amount plastic I consume is both manageable and desirable. Maybe I can work down to an almost plastic-free arrangement, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
I’m going to start by eliminating single-use plastic; it’s easily the worst offender as it can’t be recycled, and goes more-or-less straight to landfill.
- Carrier bags: I have a couple of fold-away bags-for-life I can keep with me. Where I was using them as bin liners, perhaps paper liners are available
- Cups from the watercooler: use ceramic mugs instead
- Cling film: I’m going to start using Tupperware to take food to work in (replacing plastic with a different sort of plastic, but at least I’m not just going to chuck the Tupperware when I’ve eaten lunch)
- Packaging: This is a biggie, but I’m going to try, as much as possible, to buy things and food that isn’t shrink-wrapped or overly packaged*
I’m going to be honest here, the scale of the problem has really shocked and overwhelmed me; I may be naïve, but I hadn’t realised how bad the problem really is in other parts of the world (see: Our Today is Forever, below), and the concept that this stuff never goes away is mind-boggling.
Saying things like ‘the maximum “plastic density” [in the gyre] was 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre’ is entirely academic. I can’t visualise a square kilometre – let along two hundred thousand pieces of one centimetre-square plastic – but show me a harbour with so many plastic bottles bobbing around it that you can’t see the water, or an albatross’ stomach packed full of binbags and bottle tops, and I’ve got a way to internalise that data.
More importantly, I’ve got an image I can call up next time someone asks “Do you want a carrier bag?”
TED: Tough truths about plastic pollution (trigger warning: dead animals)
YouTube: Our Today is Forever (trigger warning: dead animals)
* After two days, I’m finding this bit considerably harder than I thought it would be. No pre-made sandwiches or takeaway food (maybe pizza, possibly Indian), no convenience meals, no snacks except fresh fruit (unless I make it myself) and no treats, except individual Cadbury’s Creme Eggs (foil wrapping FTW).
Fizzy pop is possibly justifiable (in reduced quantities) because the bottles and tins are recyclable, and sweets or fast food in paper bags likewise, but any other junk foodstuff is right out. My diet will improve; my disposition not so much.