Recycling And Recycled Are Not The Same Thing. In 2018 when the Chinese decided they no longer wanted to be the world’s biggest importer of recycled waste, this became even more of a reality. Whilst in the longer-term this is an opportunity to develop better solutions, the global impact of the ban is very concerning, with 500,000 more tons of plastic and other recyclable household waste incinerated in the UK alone last year. In other parts of the world such as Australia, they’re now struggling with how to handle the 1.3 million tons of recyclable waste previously shipped to China.
- as plastics take hundreds of years to biodegrade, all the plastic ever made still exists today (6.3 billion tonnes)
- left unchecked plastic will outweigh fish in our oceans by 2050
- 480 billion plastic bottles were sold globally in 2016, that’s more than 1 million per minute or 20 thousand per second
- for every 100m of British beach, there are over 200 plastic or polystyrene items*
As a household we have an ‘as little as plastic as possible’ pledge which we do as much as possible but it isn’t always easy. Having said that, here are some of the ways in which we’re succeeding at being 100% plastic-free:
Like many people, we use tote and hessian bags for our shopping. I also buy my produce loose wherever possible and use the papers bags usually reserved for mushrooms. I have to be careful in some shops though as the plastic bag charge seems to have bypassed them altogether and they insist on wrapping plastic-covered food in more plastic or stuffing it into plastic carrier bags if I’m not paying attention. The plastic containers the dog’s raw dog meat comes in also make great containers for replenishing supplies.
Tea leaves vs. Teabags
When we switched from tea bags to loose-leaf tea I really struggled to find a loose-leaf tea without plastic. Luckily that’s now changed, but to start with, enjoying a cup of tea was not a piece of cake from an environmental and sustainability standpoint.
Just last week I got rid of my cleaning caddy as it had become obsolete. For a long time I haven’t had anything to put in it, save a few cleaning cloths, copper scourer and a spray bottle of white distilled vinegar. I use Bicarbonate of Soda to clean too, but I just scoop what I need from our 10kg box as and when required.
Towards Zero Waste
Like a growing number of UK towns, Bournemouth now has Sunrise Organics, an independent health food shop which has also created a self-service, zero-waste area in the store in a bid to reduce plastic used and increase pre-packed, loose organic foods.
They have gravity-fed dispensers where you can replenish your fabric conditioner, hand wash, toilet cleaner, shampoo and conditioner, for example. They also stock organic items such as brown rice flakes, buckwheat flakes, pumpkin, sunflower, chia, sesame and alfalfa seeds, dried mulberries, cane sugar, desiccated coconut, cacao powder, cashew, almond, walnut, brazil nuts, gluten-free pasta, herbs and spices, to name just a few. You can also use your own containers or use one of their free paper bags. Why can’t our supermarkets do this?
Many of us do more than our bit, but just because something can be recycled does not guarantee that it will be recycled. And it’s no longer good enough to feel virtuous because you checked an item’s packaging was recyclable before you bought it.
But surely the solution is for the supermarkets not just supply plastic bags in the first place? And also not to ask people if they want a plastic bag unless they actually asked for one. I’ve been asked to so many times when I’ve got a trolley I can put my stuff into your own even carrying a bag or have my bags at the end of the conveyor. Certain internet retailers (Amazon in this case) also insist on wrapping products in additional plastic (see photo) which doesn’t happen if you order direct from the supplier. I’ll never know what the attraction is for these organizations but it just exacerbates the issue and undoes the good work of those of us who endeavor not to use plastic unnecessarily. Where it will all end I don’t know but all we can do is continue to pledge to use as little as plastic as possible. Are you in?
* source: www.plasticsfree.co.uk