Plastic is everywhere and in some cases unavoidable. It is something that annoys me to bits at times, particularly knowing what a detrimental effect this has one the environment. I truly admire people who live a completely plastic-free life and I am certain that there are many ways in which I can still reduce my plastic consumption. But living in a city without a waste-free shop, I cannot always be as plastic-free as I would like. Nonetheless, this is something that I strive to improve, as the effects of plastic on the environment are truly horrendous. To inspire myself (and hopefully you) to go plastic-free more often I have compiled a little list with 10 shocking facts about plastic.
- 97% of all plastic still exists. Some plastics take up to a million years to decompose and most take hundreds of years.
- There is more microplastic in our oceans than there are stars in our milky way.
- More than 8 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since plastic became a commercial good in 1957.
- The average plastic bag has a working life of just 15 minutes.
- 44% of all seabirds have some plastic in their system and over a million birds die each year because of plastic.
- Henderson Island, a tiny uninhabited island in the South Pacific, is the landmass most affected by plastic. Over 38 million pieces have washed up on its shores.
- The UK (and other Western countries) send their trash to low-income countries. This removes the issue for them but does not resolve it. Plastic has been linked to numerous health concerns, including cancer.
- Kenya has the strictest ban against plastic bags in the world. Anyone using, producing or selling plastic bags can face jail time or a hefty fine. #gokenya.
- More plastic has been produced in the last decade, than in the 50 years before that.
- Based on current trends, plastic production will double by 2025.
What we can do
Looking up these facts made me sad and a little hopeless. So much of these facts are beyond our control. We do not control where our trash ends up (particularly if our city council doesn’t even allow proper recycling). We also do not control how companies choose to wrap their products. All we can do is vote in elections (or start petitions) and hope that our vote makes a difference at top-down level. But that doesn’t mean we need to stand by without doing anything. We can choose to make more conscious decisions wherever possible. We can choose to say no to plastic in many of our choices. Here are some of the things I try to do to reduce my use of plastic:
Swap to reusables
There are some items that are single-use and plastic that can easily be swapped for reusables. The most well-known example of this is, of course, the plastic bag. But also coffee mugs, water bottles, razors, tampons, and dish sponges are some examples of items that can be easily replaced with reusables. I can vouch from experience that all these sustainable options do not compromise on quality and user-friendliness. And I also know there are many more examples of items that you (and I!) can use in the reusable edition. The best part about reusasbles (besides the fact that they reduce plastic waste) is that they can save you tons of money in the long-run.
Swap to plastic-free packaging (or avoid plastic)
If you have a waste-free store in your area, then, of course, you can get your food staples from there. If you are not that lucky and don’t want to go hungry, there are a few other things you can do.
- Choose foods in the grocery store that are packaged in paper or cardboard. Oats, couscous and fresh berries are some examples of foods that are often wrapped sustainably in mainstream supermarkets.
- Glass and tin packaging are also better for the environment than plastic, as both can easily be recycled.
- Opt not to wrap your produce at the grocery store (if possible).
- Avoid mainstream shops completely for produce by getting a local fruit and veg box delivered.
- Ditch Amazon. There are plenty of alternative (waste-free) online shops and many sustainable brands naturally will ship their products without plastic (such as this awesome swimwear brand).
Try living without plastic for a week
As always, awareness is the first step to change. Becoming aware of our plastic consumption will make us realize how dependent we really are on this product in our everyday life. To become aware of our usage of plastic we can go without plastic for a week. There are tons of plastic-free challenges roaming the internet. I wanted to participate in this one hosted by the ethical influencer’s community, but happened to be on holiday at the time. I haven’t done a plastic-free challenge yet, but am itching to do one. It is a brilliant way of increasing awareness of how much plastic we usually consume in our day-to-day life. Stay tuned for my try at a plastic-free week.
These are some of my tips for reducing plastic in our life, but I would love to hear if you have any additional tips!