Plastic gets a LOT of hate mail in the press…but plastic is one of the most amazing inventions of the 20th century…there I’ve said it! It really is one of the most versatile substances that has ever been created and some days I wonder how we ever lived without it. If you don’t think it’s versatile, just look around your house or your workplace or even your car and you’ll find that it can be used in place of almost any other material known to man.
There is really nothing inherently wrong with it…it’s useful and strong, clever and durable, lightweight and it literally can last forever! It only becomes a problem when it ends up in the WRONG PLACE!
For starters, we use this indestructible material to make things that we only plan on using for a nanosecond in time, well, a very short time at least! Take straws for example, it would probably take me about 30 seconds to finish a popper (juice carton) and after I’ve recycled the box (because I can where I live) what to do with the straw? It can’t be recycled, it can’t really be cleaned reliably, it’s really not much use to me, so I have to throw it in the bin. Besides, if I buy another popper, I get a new one anyway, so my old straw is now defunct.
So, the problem is actually that we need to start thinking differently about plastic. It’s not going to go away, but we can certainly use it to our advantage and not let it get out of control.
After attempting Zero Waste Week this week, I have realised how hard it is to avoid plastic packaging. The key is to come prepared with your own containers and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Now, I consider myself lucky that I am able to recycle most firm plastics in my household recycling bin. I have also just discovered that my local supermarket has a‘soft’ plastics recycling bin too. That doesn’t leave much left to put in my normal bin, but there are some odds and ends that do end up in there (see straw comment above).
So, if this plastic stuff is not going away anytime soon, I’m at least going to do my best to put it in it’s rightful place. Here’s my plan:
1. If I can avoid buying or receiving plastic in any way, I will do so. (reusable bags, bring my own mug, choose products with less packaging…have you ever tried to find a continental cucumber without a plastic jacket on?)
2. Tell manufacturers that I don’t like their packaging if they use excessive plastic. They may or may not change their ways, but if we don’t tell them, they won’t know. (note to self: must write to Cadbury’s about their new plastic wrappers, it’s just not the same as the old paper and foil)
3. If I have to use plastic, I will endeavour to buy good quality products that will last a long time and reuse them until they have no life left in them. (plastic bottles and jars, containers, toys)
4. If I cannot reuse them anymore, I will make sure that they are recycled in a reliable and conscientious manner. (household recycling scheme, sell or give away old toys)
In this way, I can reduce my impact as best I can and maybe save a few marine animals along the way, because let’s face it, that’s where an awful lot of our plastic ends up.
And as the saying goes,
If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve obviously never been in bed with a mosquito.