Plastic is everywhere.
Just take a second to look around you and I bet you spot at least 10 objects that have plastic on or in them. Case in point, I am typing this blog post on a plastic computer keyboard, pointing with my plastic mouse, and editing the words with my plastic computer monitor.
It is everywhere and that is not a particularly good thing. There are many types of plastic, usually numbered from 1 to 7 to indicate the composition of the item made from it.
Many petroleum-based plastics take many, many years to break down in the environment around them. In truth, they don’t really break down, they just shatter into smaller pieces and persist in our soils, waterways, and oceans and killing wildlife when they ingest these pieces. Compostable plastics are now entering the marketplace, but still in very low volumes. These are usually made from plant starches and breakdown over a few years.
There are so many simple ways to make the move away from plastic easier. Refusing to buy food in plastic containers is one of the easiest I can think of, which also includes disposable coffee cups; even the paper ones that are lined with plastic. Ironically, I use a KeepCup. Although it is made from plastic, it is better than using disposables, and can be used over and over and recycled at the end of its life.
Plastic shopping bags are easy to refuse. Take along your own canvas or market bags to the shop. We always have a bundle of canvas bags in the boot of our car for such a purpose. If you do get given a plastic shopping bag, you can recycle them at our major supermarkets as well as other soft plastics.
If you do get stuck without an alternative to plastic, make sure you recycle the item. So much recyclable plastic gets thrown into landfill. Recycled plastic can be turned into things like ceiling insulation, park benches, thermal filler in jackets, and all sorts of useful things. Curbside recycling is available in most suburbs in most cities in Australia, so there is no real reason not to recycle these items. There are now even many recycling bins on our city streets.
By taking small steps to move away from plastic is an easy way to start, and poses less of an impact on the environment. All I ask is take the time to think about the plastic you use in your daily lives, then consider an alternative solution.
Now as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so during my research for this post, I came across the infographic below. Even though it has stats for the United States, much of it is similar for Australia and other western countries. From what I can tell, the volumes are way higher than here in Oz, but the percentages are similar. Check it out. Some of the information will astound you!
Click to Enlarge Image
Put Down The Plastic
Infographic by CustomMade
It’s so easy to get caught. I took a bag with me today when I went shopping and filled it up. I ended up making the most of the opportunity to get other things I needed… and along comes another plastic bag. I aim to buy/consume as little plastic as possible but looking at my Christmas stash today I can see I’ve still got a way to go. I hope next year I can plan ahead and consider packaging etc way before I get out in the shops.
Gavin Webber says
I know how you feel. If we get stuck with too little canvas bags, we tend to buy a couple more rather than accept the plastic. We have so many canvas bags now that we are using them for all manner of things. I even carry parcels for the business in these types of bags because they are so strong.
Hi Gavin, Has anyone a good suggestion as to what to line the kitchen waste bin with? Here in the great white north, I don’t do any compost in the winter-although maybe I should start….We just recently got a new and expanded recycling program, so a great deal goes in the bins, but I still have a “garbage can” that I don’t want leaking everywhere. Open to ideas. Thanks so much.
growing up we lined our kitchen bin with old newspaper. The bin had a bucket inside it and that was washed each time we emptied the bin. It really wasn’t a big deal. There are degradable bags but even these make me feel guilty because they have to be manufactured and transported so still have a footprint that isn’t very green.
Interestingly, curbside bins were much smaller in the 70s and ours was never overflowing. I do remember that aside from groceries, shopping was something that only happened about two or three times a year – going into Summer and Winter clothes were bought, and at the end of the year sales linens and underwear were stocked up on. So we didn’t generate that much rubbish.
Gavin Webber says
Hi Barb, I think Madeleine has answered your question, but we do the same. Line the bottom with newspaper and then give a scrub with water which we then use on the garden. Because we compost everything and have chooks and dogs, we rarely put any food scraps in the bin. It doesn’t get that messy.
We stopped the newspaper years ago, and compost is our only ‘wet’ garbage. We have such a short growing season, that all attempts at gardening so far have met with failure- with the exception of rhubarb and our gooseberry bushes. I will be checking into other possibilities. Thanks for the suggestion.
those pictures are sobering! I don’t know about you, but recycling doesn’t do much to alleviate my guilt as I’m all too aware that even recyclable things have had to be manufactured and transported, and then there are the carbon miles and emissions involved in turning them into something else.
I even feel guilty buying tins of tomatoes and packets of pasta! Pre-kids and divorce, we made all of our own pasta and even bottled all of our own home-grown tomatoes and baked our own sour dough bread. I’m trying to work my way back to that lovely way of living, but have to say that even more than finding the time, finding the energy to do it all is hard. I’m crossing my fingers for a bumper tomato crop this year, and planning to bottle once again. Will also have many kilos of peaches to bottle or dry, but most of the other fruit will just be eaten fresh.
If anyone is interested, the Zero Waste Home book and website are wonderful, and therogueginger has some great movie suggestions on the topic of plastic.
Gavin Webber says
Hi Madeleine. I am hoping for lots of surplus tomatoes this year as well to make some delicious passata.
I agree that Erin over at The Rogue Ginger is a great role model for anyone who is looking to get rid of plastic from their lives completely! x
This is another reason it’s great to be living in South Australia. Our ban on single use plastic shopping bags, and the container deposit scheme are fantastic! Wish they would become national schemes.
There was certainly opposition to the shopping bag ban when it was introduced but it’s now just habit for most people to bring their reusable bags with them.
Yes, if only we’d adopt that policy here in NSW. Target stores stopped supplying plastic bags a few years ago – then reintroduced them due to consumer pressure. Makes you ashamed to be Australian, if we are so lazy we cannot even carry a bag to the store in spite of the damage we know plastic is doing to our environment.
Gavin Webber says
I agree with you both, why we don’t have a national scheme is beyond me. Well, not beyond me, it is the drink container lobby led by Coca-Cola Amatil that is mainly to blame. Every time a state or territory tries to implement a container deposit scheme, they cry foul and lobby hard or raise a court case against them. It is criminal how companies are allow to put profits before the long term care of humanity.
Mary H says
That’s a very nice graphic in your website. Wish it was in a printable format.
Gavin Webber says
Me too. When PR agencies produce these things, it would be nice if they broke them into printable chunks or had a printing option.