Going Plastic Free
It is Plastic Free July, a time where people all over the world commit themselves to one month without plastic. It is a beautiful opportunity to become more aware about how much plastic we actually consume, as well as providing fertile ground to create a habit that goes beyond the 31 days. After all, we need to drastically reduce our plastic consumption at all times.
Why go plastic free?
1. It is made from fossil fuels
We all know that driving our car or taking a flight contributes to carbon emissions, but what about the production of plastic? Most plastic is actually made from fossil fuels that have been extracted from the land or seabed. Plastic production is responsible for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, 3% more than the global aviation industry, and yet it is arguably spoken about less. Through choosing to go plastic free, we are therefore not only helping prevent plastic pollution, but also carbon emissions.
2. It is polluting the environment
Many of us have seen at least one video on the Internet of an animal suffering the consequences of our plastic consumption, but how much are these isolated cases or a widespread phenomenon? Sadly, it is the second. Plastic waste kills 100 million marine animals every year… and that is just the animals we are aware of. Nearly every seabird on earth is eating plastic and over one million birds die from plastic pollution every year. Given the rapid decline in wildlife on a global scale, this is both devastating and frightening.
3. It is polluting our bodies
Marine animals and birds are not the only ones ingesting plastic. Recent studies have shown that we are ingesting the equivalent of a credit card on a weekly basis as a result of micro-plastics! In 2019 the Guardian reported that we are eating at least 50,000 plastic particles a year and we breathe in a similar amount. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/05/people-eat-at-least-50000-plastic-particles-a-year-study-finds) The chemicals found in plastic are known to be harmful, linked with a variety of health problems such as organ issues, development delays, reproductive harm and obesity.
4. Only 10% of plastic is actually recycled
In some ways, our faith in recycling is doing more harm than good. Every time we separate our rubbish, meticulously scrubbing our plastic containers to make sure that they are clean enough to be recycled, we enter the belief that we are doing something for the planet. It is serving as a veil, allowing us to act in ignorance whilst mountains of plastic continue to accumulate and pollute the environment and our bodies.
Through promoting recycling as a solution to plastic, we inadvertently endorse the continuation of the mass production of plastic, as well as the failures of the system to deal with it inadequately. Despite all our efforts, the truth is that only about 10% of plastic is actually recycled. In fact it is estimated that no more than 10% of plastic produced has ever actually been recycled. This is a heart wrenching statistic, but also a wake up call to action. Rather than placing hope in other authorities to deal with our plastic waste efficiently, we can take matters into our own hands. We can just stop buying single-use plastic altogether.
5. Other countries are carrying the heavy load
The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/17/uk-plastics-sent-for-recycling-in-turkey-dumped-and-burned-greenpeace-finds recently reported that more than half of the plastic the British government says is being recycled is actually sent overseas. Many of these countries don’t have the appropriate infrastructure to recycle, so our so-called recycling ends up being dumped, burned, or left to pollute our land, rivers and seas.
This not only causes an issue for the environment, but for the health of those who live in the surrounding areas, including breathing difficulties and feeling unwell. https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/plastic-recycling-export-incineration/
6. It can last in the environment for up to 500 years
It has taken billions of years for the fossil fuels which make up plastic to form and it can take hundreds of years for that plastic to decompose. Yet, we sometimes use such plastic for a matter of minutes. Take a 500ml plastic water bottle. We buy it, gulp it down, and then throw it away. That water bottle, a combination of different plants and animals that have decomposed over time, will then take up to 450 years to return back to the earth, leaching out chemicals in the process.
What can we do?
So, the reasons for going plastic free are hardly optimistic. In fact, they may have left you in a state of despair, thinking “what’s the point in recycling anyway?!” Luckily there are actions that we can take; it just takes a bit of reorganisation. Rather than relying on our government and business leaders to pioneer change, we just need a shift in perspective.
It is time to move away from our investment and reliance on single-use items. No matter what the material – whether it be plastic or paper, metal or cardboard – we need to prioritise reusing. After all, it is not just the disposal of such items that are the issue, but the extraction of the earth's limited resources for their production and transportation. It is time to adopt the following slogan:
Think refill. Not landfill. Think reuse. Not refuse.
This is about taking radical action and saying no to single-use, no matter what inconvenience that causes you. And don’t worry, this is not a solo journey. Yes, we make changes to our consumption habits on an individual basis, but it is ultimately collective action that is going to make the difference. It is all about the setting up of plastic-free shops, reuse libraries and repair cafes. It is the community ocean and river cleans, the litter picks. This is about becoming a Plastic Free Community; it is about finding common unity in community, working towards a shared goal for the benefit of all.
So, join us on the road to a plastic-free living and know that you are supported by a global community of people who are making every consumption choice a conscious one.
Going plastic free
We believe that going plastic free does not need to mean buying new things, nor does it have to be more expensive. In fact, it can actually prove to be highly economical, providing us with the rare case whereby cutting costs does not come at the expense of the earth. Yet, it is a radical journey. This is not about stopping our addiction to plastic for paper; it is about stopping single-use altogether.
These are but a few. Check out the following blogs for more tips on how to go zero waste.
Friends of the Earth (https://friendsoftheearth.uk/plastics/living-without-plastic)
Plastic Free July (https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved/what-you-can-do/)
Going Zero Waste (https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/)
Plastic Free Forest Row
When we speak about a ‘plastic free community,’ we are not suggesting that all plastics are completely eliminated. We are dreaming up a community where single-use plastics are no longer in circulation; a community where we place value in reusing items, preventing plastic waste as much as possible. Currently, the world produces over 400 million tonnes of plastic a year, half of which is used once and then thrown away. Through preventing single-use plastics where possible, we can drastically reduce our plastic consumption, benefiting the environment and humans.
Though some may scoff at the idea, this is hardly an outstanding dream. Communities across the UK have signed up to become Plastic Free, championing change both as individuals and a collective.
It is time that we – Forest Row – build the future that we all wish to see.
Learn more about how you can get involved in making Forest Row a Plastic Free Community here (https://www.formedway.org/post/plastic-free-community)