The lowdown on plastic!
It’s absolutely no mistake that humans are responsible for the mess we find ourselves in today. Each and every one of us, families and friends have been entwined in the web. Of course there is the element that the earth, like all things that have a cycle, and is also going through a cycle right now. However, our generation is experiencing the culmination of both errors and cyclical behaviour. One we can control and the other we cannot.
So around a year ago I had broken my cycle of dependency, the immediate needs being seen to. It was an epiphany. It didn’t matter what I did, where I went, I saw it everywhere around me, masses and masses of it – plastic! I don’t know where I had been, hiding under a blanket of numbness?, for sure I knew that it was there, and I did my bit to recycle, reuse and of course try not to purchase plastic, but it was difficult. So I did what I could do, and removed the bits of plastic that I didn’t need, the ones that I had been marketed to that I needed. Plastic bags were first, bins liners next, plastic wrapped toilet paper, plastic wrapped pasta, sugar, anything that I really wasn’t that attached to and could replace with something else, an alternative.
There has been loads of hype and media around banning the single use plastic bag. For whatever reason here in Australia we seem to do things a bit slower than the rest of the world. San Francisco banned the single use plastic bag some 10 years ago and they doing just fine. So what can you do, today to make a difference? Are you already doing it? If so big ups to you, you bloody legend! But for you if you are struggling with plastics, finding it hard to get off them, and looking to not feel so bad when you are shopping and the beautiful waif beside you has all the best reusable shopping bags, cups, straws etc. and looks like she stepped out of a misty forest or a zero waste blog. It’s ok, I’ve been there, and I hate feeling bad, so I found out a few things, and for you I have done the research below so you can make a better and more conscious choice next time, especially if that waif keeps following you around. GRRRR
Firstly let’s start with the humble bin liner. So if you added up the amount of people on your street, maybe they use a bin liner twice per week in their home, that adds up to a load of bin liners right? I don’t know how many houses are on your street but on my street there are loads, so I’ve done the math for you:
Loads of houses x loads of bin liners???? === too much landfill.
Maths was never my strong point, but if I just based it on what I could do in my house, I have removed in a year 90 bins liners from landfill. But not only that, I now consciously shop differently, I separate and refunction most of my waste now and I don’t fill the bin up willy nilly.
So currently on the market there are degradable plastics, bio-degradable and compostable plastics. All sound so alluring, literally degradable sounds to me that it does the job that I want it to, break down and dissolve, well it kind of does, but into a million tiny pieces that always end up in the sea.
Degradable plastics – Petroleum based product, has an additive added to it that helps it break down quicker than regular plastic bags, but ends up becoming micro plastics. This type of plastic should be banned!!!
Bio-Degradable - Made from plant based products like corn, wheat and starch. Truth about these is that they bio-degrade only under certain circumstances, i.e. ultraviolet light, heat and if they end up in landfill they create loads more methane into the atmosphere. These should also be banned.
Compostable plastic - Made from natural products like corn starch, soy protein, cellulose and potato. They do compost completely, but there is a glitch, they need to be separated sent to a specific recycling facility and heated to the right temperature, but yes out of all of the products they seem to be the most planet friendly. But, at this point there are only around 150 facilities in Australia that do this specific kind of recycling. Therefore planting them with your fruits and vegie compost may not work either.
Landfill Bio-Degradable – These are the new cats on the block. Landfill bio-degradable means simply if the bags are put into your landfill bin and end up at the tip being landfilled, then they have a fighting chance to make it into the soil and not the waterways. This kind of plastic is manufactured using the same kind of technology as the bio degradable but they claim that they do not use the same materials as compostable plastics. So I think if you are going to choose one of the four, this is the best bet at the moment, but tech is catching up to the market and the changes people are wanting to make, so who knows this might be the old dog soon enough.
Lessen your single use plastic bag use, then tackle the other bits of plastic that come into your home!
I have two daughters, a pre-teen and a teen. They are super awesome, but they bring in their fair share of single use plastic in the home. I talk to them about making better choices when they go shopping, but it still comes through my door!!! It’s a f*&king nightmare. Whilst I am busy trying my hardest to stop the plastics coming in, they are breaking their way in like vampires, being invited and never leaving! I am a realist and know that unless we move to the country, become fully self-sustainable, make their clothes from scratch and cut ourselves off from the world there will inevitably be some plastic in our lives. But give me the pipe-dream of being completely plastic free on the farm, and yes - I might just put that in my pipe and smoke it!
So whilst trying to tackle the teens, the world we live in and attempting to live a zero waste life. I have now personally given buying single use, plastic wrapped shampoo, conditioner, washing liquid, dish-washing liquid, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, bread, peanut butter, and dry goods like flours, sugars, grains. It's easy, but I have so many more things to toss. Next on the list is milk (currently researching the most ethical milk / jus available), buying meat from the butcher in my own containers, making my own muesli again (slipped on that one) and purchasing bulk cheese, deli goods. It's a slow process but it is working and our general consumption of waste is lessening each and every week.
And in the end here is a little anecdote:
Some years ago I had a conversation with my father in law about climate change and climate change sceptics. He is a sceptic. Whilst everyone is able to have their own opinion, even if this isn't my opinion its good for the debate and discussion. What unfolded was this - It doesn't matter on which side of the fence you sit, whether you believe that the world is cyclical and mother nature will just take back what is rightfully hers or not. Whether or not this is just a fact regardless of the endless papers you have read from scholars who are pro or anti climate change. The simple truth is that we humans, either by perfect design or by having weapons of mass destruction, have put ourselves at the top of the food chain or therefore by default are the custodians of the planet. Therefore our innovation and technologies have led us to where we are right now, swimming in the sea of plastic. Now come on if you don't think you have been partisan to any of it, you are a fool or just really young. But we can turn it around, we can be better at what we do on a daily basis, we can start to clean up our backyards. This isn't just a fad, it's for real. So the conversation ended like this. Father in law "I do not believe in climate change, the world has been going through cycles of change for millions of years and will continue to do so, climate change is not real", I chimed in "It is really not that important whether everyone believes in climate change or not, what is important is that we start to care about how we are living on the planet, therefore people just need to be more conscious of their choices, regardless of the climate change debate".
So if you do give a shit, even if you don't believe in climate change, take some more time and care about your daily duties, purchases and say no to the plastic bags you get over the counter, even if they do pick up your dog poo on your morning walk.
Written by: Jodee Sydney