A Month Without Single-Use Plastic: Could You Do It?
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The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is challenging YOU to survive the month of June without the consumption of single-use plastics.
According to the MCS, plastic litter on our beaches has increased by a whopping 180% in the past 20 years. Plastic pieces are increasingly found in the stomachs of sea creatures, many of whom have died from starvation and choking as a direct result.
When a beached sperm whale was examined in 2012, it was found to contain 30m2 of tarpaulin, a 4.5m long hose, a 9m long section of plastic rope and two flower pots. Yes, two flower pots.
According to National Geographic, the average human produces 100kg of plastic every year and there is currently about 100 million tonnes of plastic in our oceans.
We only see small amounts of plastic littering our everyday lives, making the above figures very difficult to comprehend. Lucky for us, this mass collection of plastic trash conveniently flows with the ocean currents and concentrates in certain areas of the sea. Out of sight, out of mind. Lovely.
The MCS challenge has been created to raise awareness about the sheer quantity of single-use plastic we consume in order to help make these shocking global figures more comprehendible.
MCS suggests that participants “say goodbye to conveniences like pre-packed sandwiches, ready meals and plastic-bottled drinks for a day, a week or, if they can manage it, the whole of June.”
This may sound like a simple task – the above items are luxury products, bought out of convenience and ease – but these are not the only one-time-use plastics we use.
A quick stroll around your local supermarket will reveal the extent of our plastic wastage. Nearly every single item uses disposable plastics, from fruit and vegetables, to staples like pasta, milk, cheese and meat.
You may interject that some of these food items have to be packaged for hygienic purposes! Yes, they do, but are disposable plastics really necessary?
Are we not able to cope with washing fruit and vegetables ourselves? Or carrying more than three oranges without plastic netting? Or using recyclable paper to wrap our meat and fish instead of single-use plastics?
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I recorded my plastic use for just one day and was shocked at the results. The items in bold are the plastics:
8.15am: Contact lenses. Frustratingly, I am allergic to something in contact lens solution so have to put in brand new ones every day – not a great start to my plastic-conscious day. Many people choose daily contact lenses over ones which last a month. This means 31 days, 62 lenses and 62 pieces of plastic packaging.
8.30am: I had one Nakd bar, in disposable plastic packaging, as a pre-gym snack. I bought this yesterday and, just 12 hours later, the packaging is in the bin.
9am: Go to gym – no single-use plastic here.
10.30am: Leave gym and go to supermarket for a bit of plastic research – of course, most items in the store used single-use, non-recyclable plastic. On the walk home, I passed a small, independent store – most of the fruit and vegetable items here were unpackaged.
11.00am: Return to flat and have breakfast – one banana, porridge oats, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey. I specifically chose the unpackaged, green and unripe bananas over the packaged yellow ones. The honey comes in a plastic bottle (recyclable) and the porridge oats come in an unrecyclable plastic bag. The cinnamon container, thank goodness, can also be recycled.
11.15am: Shower. My shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles will last for a short period before a large amount of energy will be required to recycle them – not a single-use plastic but close to it.
12pm: Voting time – the Scottish council elections are today and doing your civic duty requires no single-use plastics!
1pm: Lunch – iceberg lettuce, feta cheese, beetroot and croutons: all bought yesterday and now four pieces of plastic packaging are in the bin.
6pm: Dinner – rice, black beans, mixed vegetables and a wrap. Again, all in single-use plastic packaging.
One day; a lot of plastic.
If none of this will leave you with the guilty feeling currently in the pit of your stomach, then I leave you with this: National Geographic recently posed the question “are you eating plastic for dinner?”
Guess what? Much of the plastic that we mindlessly dispose of ends up in the stomachs of sea creatures. Many of these creatures end up on our dinner plates and then in our stomachs. Yum.
Every year, more than 100,000 turtles, marine mammals and sea birds die as a direct result of our plastic waste. We need to do something.
Do not give the usual “I am just one person, I can’t do anything about it” answer – it takes one piece of plastic packaging to suffocate a turtle. Make sure that piece of plastic isn’t yours.
The following links will give you information on how to reduce your plastic use:
Images courtesy of the Marine Conservation Society