Plastic Free Living: How to ditch plastic for good.
Take a minute and look around you: how many items within your reach are composed of plastic?
For me, I can feel that my keyboard is made of plastic, the tube of lip balm next to me is also made of plastic, and I’m currently wearing a shirt that I purchased second hand that is made of at least 65% polyester, which is, again, made of plastic.
We are living in a day and age where most of the things that we come in contact with have at least one plastic component, or another, and while it is increasingly difficult to completely purge plastic from our lifestyles, if we make simple changes in how we purchase and dispose of items, then we can at least reduce the massive amount of plastic that is piling up in landfills, attempting to be recycled in plants, or contaminating the Earth’s oceans.
What’s the big deal about plastic, anyway?
From HowItWorks.com, we learn that “for starters, it’s often a non-biodegradable, petroleum-derived product. Factor in toxins, wildlife endangerment and difficult recycling issues”, and it’s easy to see that plastic is not an ideal item to be mass produced or consumed, as we do.
As it is non-biodegradable, this means that plastic does not break down into organic matter. It can go on, and on, being buried in a landfill, and even outlive us. Even a flimsy, single-use plastic bag can ‘live’ for 1000 years before entirely decomposing. Take into account how many plastic bags you use to take home your groceries, and it starts to look like a much bigger problem. Even if we’re tossing our plastics into the recycling bin rather than rubbish bin, hardly any plastics are currently being recycled.
Since India and China have recently pulled out from accepting overseas plastics for recycling, many countries have sadly been forced to send their plastics directly to the landfill. On top of this, with so many items being made up of light plastic that can be moved by the breeze, or micro plastics that can become loose into waterways, our oceans are being filled up with plastic at an astonishing rate, causing harm to a mass amount of wildlife.
With this being said, plastic is not only a ‘big deal’, it is an absolute catastrophic ordeal.
Okay, okay, so how can I reduce my dependence on plastic?
While it is difficult to completely say no to plastic, there are multiple ways you can reduce how much plastic you use and dispose of. While some steps are simple, and some steps are hard, even introducing a few of the pointers into your life will help you to in-turn help the Earth.
- Do not throw out everything in your house that’s made of plastic and replace it with alternative items.
Feeling confused? I just told you to reduce your plastic dependency, but I’m telling you to keep plastic?
Let me say, plastic is an excellent resource to use in your household…it’s cheap, dependable, easy to clean, and usually something we already have in the house, and yes, we want to reduce our dependency on it, but tossing out perfectly good wares to purchase non-plastic replacements is NOT going to help your impact on the Earth.
Your plastic Tupperware is going to go on working, and working, just as it has been, so why try and replace it and send it off to the landfill before it has given its all? If you’re very keen on replacing items, wait until they’re thoroughly broken, and no longer can be repaired. Then, you can purchase your replacement items sensibly, and with a non-plastic mindset.
Purchase reusable replacements for those single-use items in your life.
There are so many items we use for sheer convenience, and they are typically items that go straight to the bin within only a few minutes of usage.
With plastic-free living being such a wonderful buzzword right now, so many shops have started stocking reusable components for our everyday uses that are completely free of plastic. For instance, there are plenty of reusable coffee cups and water bottles, stainless steel straws, cloth produce and bulk food bags, beeswax wraps to replace disposable food wrappings, and heaps of reusable shopping bags.
While all of these are an excellent start, and are already making a difference in the world, there are other items we can continue to replace as we use the last of the disposable versions: cloth nappies instead of disposable, proper cutlery instead of plastic take-away cutlery, reusable coffee pods instead of toss-away ones, and many, many more.
The list is endless when it comes to reusable replacements, but if it’s something you typically throw into the bin after one use, try your best to purchase a reusable version the next time you do your shopping, and surely you’ll be able to find an excellent, Earth-friendly product.
- Consider changing how you shop for food.
One massive contributor to how much plastic we allow into our lives is how we shop for food.
Stepping into any large, chain grocery store, you’re hard set to find anything that doesn’t come in some form of plastic packaging. From cereals in boxes/bags, fruit in unnecessary plastic, clamshell containers, or even bottled cleaning products, everything you find will have some sort of single-use, disposable packaging.
If you’re in a city that is abundant in local shops, you may find that there are some fantastic bulk-buying options. Many shops as such allow you to bring in your own cloth bulk bags or glass jars to put their items in, therefore eliminating the disposable plastic packaging.
If you’re in a town that has limited shopping options, you can still make a difference by choosing fruit and vegetables that are loose instead of pre-packaged, and try your best to make more items from scratch at home, rather than purchasing pre-made items.
- Choose to purchase clothing that is made of natural, organic fibres.
Unknown to some, one of the major causes of plastic polluting the water is actually due to our clothes being made out of synthetic, plastic produced fibres.
Materials such as polyester, acrylic, nylon, elastane, and many other fabric blends produce tiny, micro-plastic debris that come loose in the washing machine, and get carried out into the water system when the washing tub empties. Even a single load of laundry has the potential to release over 700,000 micro-plastics into the water ways.
Luckily, there are many natural and organic materials you can choose from when purchasing clothing. You can help by ensuring that your clothes are made of either organic cotton, hemp, or any combination of fibres that come from plants, and the likes.
By choosing to purchase items made out of natural fabrics, you can greatly reduce the amount of micro-plastics from entering the ocean, and subsequently reduce the harm that comes to sea-creatures.
While there are many, many more ways to reduce your dependency on plastic, just adopting a few of these options can reduce your impact on the Earth greatly.
As a staggering 50% of the plastics we use are single-use, and bin destined it is of paramount importance that we begin to reduce our dependency on plastic items. Whether it’s through replacing it with more durable goods, refusing single-use items, or changing how we shop for food and clothing, each change counts towards a better, and healthier Earth.