Consumerism, Plastic Problems

Our over-dependence on single use plastic. Can we live without it?

We are living in a world of convenience within our fast paced lifestyles. Single use throw away plastic represents definition of convenience. It is all around us. Of the global plastic produced each year, more than half is single use plastic. Plastic is a material which is built to last, that is its main feature! It’s durable. However in single use forms, this long life material is used for an average of 11 minutes before being thrown away. There is nowhere for this disposable plastic to go, yet more and more is being produced and very little is being recycled. Only 9% plastic ever made has been recycled while 70% average person’s waste in the UK is not currently recyclable.

It is more widely known that plastic which reaches the oceans can harm and kill the marine birds, mammals and wildlife. I was saddened by seeing some of the shocking images of the effect of plastic on marine wildlife on social media. This is an urgent issue which needs to be tackled and everyone can contribute towards it. Recycling our way out of this problem is not the answer, we need to tackle the source and change our attitudes.

We can all do our bit to reduce this plastic catastrophe and protect our marine wildlife. To start, the 5 biggest (single use plastic) culprits:

What I found to be a considerably shocking thought, was the first plastic was invented only 110 years ago!  Since then, our livelihoods have gone into a state of dependence on this hard wearing material. In 2015, 320 million tonnes of plastic were produced globally, that is the same weight as the whole of humanity today! This figure is only expected to increase within the next few decades. Reducing our dependence on plastic from our lives is not going to be easy, but we lived without it once and so surely we can live with certainly less (at least) again.

The key to this, is changing our priorities, directing them away from convenience and increasing environmental awareness. We need to become aware of the plastic in our everyday lives and learn new habits. Within the last year I have got into the habit of carrying a water bottle, small foldable bag and disposable mug whenever I am out and about. Now I couldn’t go without them! A few simple swaps for me but when combined with others can lead to huge implications on the environment. Together we need to be changing practices and changing attitudes.

It is so easy to get bogged down by the sheer volume of plastic we see all around us and to get overwhelmed at the thought of cutting it all from our lives. I know I often feel at a loss when I see the extent of the issue, particularly on programmes such as, ‘A plastic ocean”.

A phrase I saw recently really stuck with me,

We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.

The Zero Waste Chef (Anne Marie Bonneau)

The concept of cutting plastic totally to a zero waste life can be so overwhelming and I do not think it is possible for everyone to do every day (I definitely haven’t been able to yet!). Plastic crops up where you least expect it! However, we can all make a few simple swaps and cuts. I consciously refuse single use plastic when I can. Every time we refuse single use plastic we are saving our oceans and planet that bit more. We don’t need to be promoting #plasticfree and #zerowaste. These goals for many seem unattainable. Instead we should focus on #lowimpact and #lessplastic, focus on the positives of what we can do rather than what we are not.

So how to start? Attempting to cut out the big 5 or just a couple of them is so simple. Over weeks, months and years, what we see to be one small change will all add up. Home made lunches, consciously refusing the plastic litter you see on the street, there are many methods. Spreading awareness of this issue and the changes you make is key. The more people who make the changes the greater the impact. We all should attempt to do as much as we can fit into our lives.

This infographic from Less Plastic is such a good start for attempting a livelihood with less plastic. Their initiative is so great!

We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for not being perfect, we could commend ourselves for making a difference. Every little change will count!

Want to do more? There are lots of petitions to try to catch the governments attention that this is an issue the public are passionate about to try to tackle from the top down.
Like this one from WWF, let them know we care!

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