Take a look around you… what can you see that is made of plastic? Perhaps it would be easier & more interesting to look for what is not made of plastic!
Plastics are everywhere: In your house, your office, your car and you’re possibly even wearing some form of plastic! Now take a moment to think about which of these things are absolutely necessary and which items you could replace with natural or more sustainable items. Hard - right?! It seems that we are still given only limited options to make this kind of choice in our current consumer environment and how environmentally conscious are we with your purchasing options anyway? Have you considered a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush recently, instead of the plastic one you used this morning? What about saying 'No' to those plastic water bottles?
I sit here at my desk and I see that plastic makes up at least part of all my stationery items; my phone, printer, computer, keyboard, etc are all made of plastic….and unfortunately there is not a lot I can do about what they are made from and they play a key role in running my business. I can however, choose which refillable ink cartridges I use and limit my printing to minimal requirements. I can also secure documents with a reusable paperclip rather than use staples. And re-use scraps of paper (clipped together) for notes rather than those 'convenient' sticky notes which cannot be recycled.
However, I also have natural fibre woven baskets for my documents, a recycled paper hardcover diary, a plant & a re-purposed hand-made candle on my desk. Not only do these add character, texture and a healthier and more aesthetic work environment but they eliminate the use for other plastic items and make good use of re-purposing rather than buying something new.
So my message here is.. that we DO have a choice, even if we start with the simpler things
in daily life to plant the seed & grow this new behaviour mindset over a period of time.
We are so wrapped up in plastic
& it’s hard to imagine life without it!
This magical, cheap, lightweight material, called plastic, is a manufacturers dream!
But what does it really cost us & the Earth in the long-term?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…..
Here are a few facts to ponder:
1. A ski jacket can be insulated with plastic fibre made from 5 recycled #1 (PET) bottles. *
2. A 60Watt lightbulb could be powered for 6 hrs with the energy saved by recycling one #2 (HDPE) plastic milk jug.* Even more energy can be saved by reusing the same milk jug.
3. When exposed to high temperatures, the plasticising agents & phthalates used to make #3 (PVC) product packaging can actually leak into food or beverages and be toxic.*
Reducing your initial purchases and re-use of plastic-ware will reduce the demand and profit margins on the manufacturing companies. It is the planned obsolescence & marketing of consumerism which is driving our technology-addicted communities, so we have to stop buying those consumable products to reduce the demand and change the cycle of product manufacturing.
Did you know?...
Only approximately 10% of our current 'new' plastic is actually recycled plastic and goes through pretty much the same process as the original materials, uses the same resources for manufacture and produces the same toxic outputs for our bodies & the Earths’ atmosphere to contend with!
In Australia we actually think we are doing the right thing by placing approx 45% of various recyclable plastics into the council collection bins. However, there are so many limitations recycling processes (especially with regard to the sorting & contamination) that many of these plastics still end up in landfill. It is often not economically viable for the recycling depots and processing plants to pursue business development projects to improve these collection and recycling processes without additional funding.
So, about 10% of plastics are actually consciously re-used or re-purposed, and the rest of the plastic that is not put into the recycling bins, either ends up in landfill with the rest of our household and business waste or washed away (or dumped) into the ocean forming great plastic waste masses called Gyers.
A significant amount of landfill is also incinerated to reduce the land footprint and some countries are even trading and shipping their waste to other countries to 'solve' their national waste problem! At least some of the countries receiving the plastic waste are able to recycle or reuse it more appropriately, such as for energy production.
It's Time for a Revolution!
Plastic has a great history of discovery, from the natural source of Rubber latex, to polystyrene, celluloid (which movie film & ping pong balls are made of) and then thermo-formed (moulded) plastics such as polypropylene. But hopefully we are about to head into a new revolutionary era for the manufacturing & applications of enviro-plastics.
Did you know? ...Many biodegradable plastics are also not actually breaking down the way they should. This is because they need to a special industrial sized compost system and should not just be thrown in with the other recycle plastics or landfill. If more natural and biodegradable plastics are manufactured instead of the non eco-friendly varieties, then more development will also need to occur in the establishment of appropriate processing plants for manufacture & reprocessing of these biodegradable materials.
The Lego Group has a sustainability program scheduled for switching to a sustainable plastic resin for its infamous Building block toys by 2030. Hhmm... but what will happen with the billions of Lego bricks already out in circulation? I’ve seen some amazing sculptures & murals made purely out of Lego as we know it today, so perhaps that's an option for re-purposing as they go out of circulation and the new ones come forth to entertain the next generation. But can you part with it? Maybe Lego could offer a trade in and use the old bricks to make mini smart cars?
Plastic - What's it worth to you? That's how we should look at all our plastic purchases.
Next time you buy something plastic:
# Think about how important it is for you to have this item.
# What's its purpose & are you likely to re-use it?
# How can it be recycled?
# Is the build up of all your disposable, convenient plastic waste, worth you buying it in the first place?
A few simple changes in our behaviour and thought processes when shopping can make a big difference:
# Drink water from the tap and be grateful for it being readily available to you.
# Carry a re-usable coffee cup with you for your take-away coffee.
# Eat with your hands or metal cutlery, wash it & re-use it.
# Use your own re-usable shopping bags
# Get creative with re-purposing ideas & maybe even sell your innovative products!
We can all help with the change movement (even if it's one plastic item at a time) and make the world a better place to live in now and for our future generations.