Drowning in Plastic
Easy ways to cut down your plastic consumption and help save our planet.
In the 60s plastic started to change the way we lived. By no means was it new but it started to become more widely available to the general public, coming in all shapes and colours. Plastic began flooding homes in all varieties, with advances in science and technology allowing things such as furniture to be made from it, leading to those lovely plastic bathrooms that you still find today (particularly in student houses).
That word, “disposable”, is really where the problem began. Convenient and time saving, disposable plastic was sold to the world as the next big thing. Plastic packaging on your food, plastic bottles. Plastic took over and it will never go away. Despite being sold as “disposable” it is in fact the exact opposite. The inventors went to great lengths to make sure that it was robust, hardwearing and long lasting. So what may be disposable to us, is far from disposable for our planet.
Plastic doesn’t ever completely degrade and on average can take between 400-1000 years to break down. There are new processes such as photodegradation that can break down plastic, but it doesn’t biodegrade with bacteria the way natural materials do.
With plastic being in such abundance now we literally cannot get away from it. We use it everyday in the pens we write with and the clothes we wear and now without realising it is in the food we eat. In 2015 a study estimated that 8 millions metric tones of plastic makes its way into our oceans from land EVERY YEAR.
Let that sink in a moment.
If plastic doesn’t break down and 8 million metric tonnes a year is just floating around it is inevitable that it is being consumed by wildlife. Earlier this year a university in Belgium calculated that shellfish lovers are consuming up to 11,000 fragments of micro plastic in their seafood each year and please don’t feel that you’re safe if you don’t eat shellfish.
Plymouth University released some results last August showing that a third of UK caught fish such as cod, haddock and mackerel also contained plastic. So when your’e tucking into your fish and chips on a Friday night you maybe be having it with a side of micro plastic.
As well as the fact that it is in our food chain and is now directly effecting us, plastic is having a colossal detrimental effect on our planet and in particular our oceans. Tens of thousands of whales, birds and turtles (among loads of other species) are killed by plastic bags every year. I’m sure you can understand the easy confusion a turtle may have between a floating plastic bag and a tasty jellyfish. Once plastic is ingested by the animals it cannot be broken down by their digestion system and so it sits in their gut causing them immense pain. It will continue to stay there, rotting and filling their stomachs and stopping them from actually being able to eat and get the nutrients they need and leading them to an eventual and early death.
I’m sure you all remember the sad story of the whale that was found beached in Norway earlier this year, which had to be put down as it was so badly malnourished. The post-mortem showed that the whale had absolutely no food in its stomach, but instead it had 30 plastic bags (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/03/whale-found-dying-coast-norway-30-plastic-bags-stomach/).
Heartbreakingly this isn’t a rare story these days. Just google whale or turtle followed by the word plastic and you’ll be faced with numerous devastating articles and videos.
However this post isn’t just about me listing a million things that are wrong with the world because of plastic. I only aim to educate you all a little more in the hope that small changes are made. Living 100% plastic free is blooming hard. The past year or so, Tom and I have tried to live with as little plastic in our lives as possible, but as I mentioned earlier we are literally surrounded by it without even noticing (she mentions as she types on the plastic keyboard of her laptop). However if each and every person that reads this posts makes a small change to their lifestyle then that’s progress on where we were before this post was made.
Steps you can take
If you’re at a loss as to where to start. Fear not, Nenagh is here with her short guide to the baby steps of reducing your plastic consumption and waste.
Reusable drinks bottles
Instead of buying a drink everyday when your’e out or at work, just buy a reusable drinks bottle. Not only is it better for the environment but it is also better for you. It will save you a pound that you’d easily be able to spend on a bottle of water. And if filled your bottle every day instead it would literally be free from the tap. I appreciate that not everyone enjoys drinking tap water (despite the fact it is totally safe), so get a filter bottle. It will take away any nasties and help neutralise any bed tastes. You’ll also find that plastic bottles can contain some really harmful chemicals (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080130092108.htm). So if your’re one that’s worried about water from the tap, you may just be consuming other chemicals instead.
Here are a few links to some cool reusable drink bottles to help you on your way -
One I really like is The Jerry Bottle - http://jerrybottle.com/how-we-give/.
It’s very sleek and good looking, it may not be the cheapest but the money from each sale goes towards funding clean water projects. Each bottle that is bought comes with coordinates engraved on the bottom telling you exactly where your money has gone and what village it is helping. You can read about it all on their website.
If you’d prefer a filter then I would aim you towards BU water - https://buproducts.co.uk/products/bamboofilterwaterbottle
Again a lovely design but not the cheapest. There are cheaper alternates available but I like this one for their conscious effort towards keeping plastic down by creating an all natural lid and filter. It’s made from bamboo which is an incredibly fast growing plant so it’s very sustainable. But my favourite part (and perhaps the coolest) is that once you’re done with the filter it can be crushed down and used in soil to help plants grow in our garden. How cool is that?
Reusable Coffee Cups
Cardiff University did a study and its results showed us that in the UK alone, 2.5 Billion “Disposable” coffee cups are used each year, resulting in an estimated 25,000 tones of waste coming from the amount of coffee consumed here in Britain. Despite the fact most cups seem to be made of cardboard all of them are lined with heat proof plastic to contain your hot drink, topped with a plastic lid. Not to mention the stirrers or spoons that come with them as well.
A lot of coffee companies and cafes are now offering money off drinks for people that bring their own cups, so not only are you saving the planet but you’re also saving yourself money. As someone that doesn’t drink coffee (or any hot drinks) I can’t say I own one of these cups but I know that Pret is upping their money off per cup to 50p so if you’re a 9-5er and have a cup a day you’ll be saving yourself £5 a fortnight.
Some suggestions that I would like to send your way -
The surfers against sewage coffee cup - https://www.sas.org.uk/shop/accessories/bamboo-coffee-cup/
Maybe a little expensive at £12 in comparison to others but much like the bamboo bottle this cup is compostable and sustainable but also really hardwearing. Loads of cool colours mean that there is one for everyone. Even at £12 give it 5 weeks of usage and it’s paid for itself.
The Coffee Eco cup - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00N866CUU/ref=twister_B01LXCJDY5?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
For those looking for something a little cheaper and a little funkier, this is ideal. Starting at £7.99 on amazon depending on size and colour. It wont take long for it to pay for itself in regards to saving on each drink, and the planet will thank you for it.
If you’re thinking ‘oh thats all well and good but I’ll have to take it home and clean it', both of these cups are dishwasher safe. So there’s no arguments to be had there.
Refuse the straw
You may find that recently a few popular pubs and restaurants have joined in on the refuse the straw campaign. It’s a pretty big movement which is definitely a step in the right direction. I’m sure you’ve all seen this heartbreaking video of the poor turtle getting the straw pulled out of his nose.
In the US alone, 500 million straws are thrown away daily, so I can’t even begin to fathom the amount that is thrown away throughout the planet. This is such an easy thing to get on board with as it is super simple just to say no thanks to a straw when you’re out having a drink with your pals.
people claim you get drunk quicker if you drink alcohol through a straw. The science behind this is that its mainly due to the fact that you drink quicker through a straw and it creates a vacuum which in turn eliminates oxygen. However if you really read up on it you will find that the difference would be so minimal that it really wouldn't be noticeable anyway, so is it really worth it? If your answer is yes then I beg you to look into getting metal or paper straws.
If you like to have a straw around the house then please look into getting these reusable metal ones -https://www.ebay.co.uk/i/202121726708?chn=ps&dispctrl=0&adgroupid=48513099489&rlsatarget=pla-381494480836&abcId=1128966&adtype=pla&merchantid=101728946&poi=&googleloc=9044965&device=c&campaignid=856936013&crdt=0
I personally think they look pretty suave, right? They look good, they save the planet and you still get to use a straw without feeling super guilty…What’s not to like about these? Maybe not the cheapest but you can get packets of cheaper one elsewhere. ‘But then I have to wash them up’ I hear you mumble, dishwasher safe baby! No Excuses.
If you’re a restaurant or bar that uses 100s a day then I give you the perfect alternative -https://www.allianceonline.co.uk/biodegradable-bendy-straw-psbio001.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMImLGWyJeR2AIVjZztCh2MKAJKEAQYASABEgKguvD_BwE
Cheap and just as good as your old classic plastic straws but not hurting the environment like the old ones do. Take this little step, make the change and know that you’re helping the planet a little bit and hopefully eventually more companies will realise that plastic straws are just not necessary when there are just as good alternatives.
Bring your own lunch and cutlery.
There is almost no reason for plastic cutlery to exist other than our sheer laziness and hate for doing the dishes, but that laziness is costing our planet. It is estimated that 40 billion plastic utensils are made every year but so few of those are recycled and end up in landfill or on our beaches and oceans. A fair few cafes and places give you plastic cutlery as the easiest and quickest clean up option, but if you ask they almost always have a metal option for you and if not, fear not, because you can have your own little travel pack.
Packing your own lunch eliminates any use off excess plastic packaging. I understand the idea of having a warm lunch or a shop bought sandwich may seem more appealing but packing your own lunch not only saves you money but also gives the option to pack anything you want for lunch. If having a cold lunch is what puts you off almost all work or uni staff rooms/canteens have microwaves, some even have ovens. There is literally no excuse other than laziness.
Getting your own travel cutlery is super easy and cheap - https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3-in-1-Cutlery-Set-Stainless-Steel-Spoon-Fork-Travel-Chopsticks-Pen-Tableware/112607150203?var=413027148747&_trkparms=aid%3D222007%26algo%3DSIM.MBE%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20160908110712%26meid%3D5c0cecd2b21948bea6707d4e41f12bbe%26pid%3D100677%26rk%3D3%26rkt%3D30%26sd%3D201668529497&_trksid=p2385738.c100677.m4598
It even comes in a cute little case to keep it clean in your bag, So you’ll never get caught out without cutlery and forced to use plastic take away cutlery.
If you are a catering company I suggest looking into vegwear - https://www.nisbets.co.uk/vegware-compostable-forks-pack-of-50/hc605?vatToggle=incvat&gclid=1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1r_wl9KR2AIVCrXtCh2YVgNSEAQYAiABEgJgJfD_BwE&cm_mmc=PLA-_-805517000-_-41587295437-_-HC605
Almost exactly like plastic cutlery except it doesn’t stay on the planet for hundreds of years and damage our wildlife and their habits.. great right? And still pretty cheap.
One for the ladies and potentially one that we are not all aware of. I only found out about this about 3 years ago when a housemate at uni said she used a menstrual cup, which seems silly as I had the sex ed talk when I was 10 years old and no one mentioned this as a form of sanitary product. For any one not aware, the menstrual cup is a small silicone flexible cup that fits inside the vaginal canal and collects the blood from your period and you just take it out empty it and give it a wash and pop it back in. Yep, its reusable. Over and over.
Which means it's saving the world from those little plastic wrapped tampons with plastic applicators and plastic wrapped pads. It’s totally safe and actually dramatically lowers your risk of toxic shock syndrome, making it better for you as well as the environment and it saves you money. They are about £20 but that will be the last money you’ll need to spend on sanitary products for a good while.
You can get a few different brands but a good one is the Diva cup - https://www.superdrug.com/Toiletries/Feminine-Care/Menstrual-Cups/The-DivaCup-Model-1/p/901257?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIi76hlNOR2AIVB7XtCh0sHQGvEAQYAiABEgKu5fD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CJOrwZrTkdgCFUGl7Qod-7EN6Q
Perfect for everyone and every type of period. If you don’t believe me read the reviews and just give it a go.
I appreciate that some of this seems like a total faff but it actually isn't. Living a little bit more consciously is actually really easy; it literally only takes a few really minimal changes to your personal life style and before you know it it becomes second nature. Once you become aware of the issue this planet has with plastic then you will start to realise how completely saturated our lives are with it. And yes it cannot be completely avoided but each step is a positive one. Even if you only take one thing from this post to change about your lifestyle I will be happy. All I ask is that you are aware of the impact you are making with the ‘disposable’ life style we all lead these days.
If you do nothing after reading this post I beg you to do just one thing for me, watch the documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’ which is now available on Netflix here in the UK. It really will open your eyes to the damage we have done and continue to do to our oceans. If you’ve not got Netflix, send me an email and we can arrange something to allow you to watch it.