Before I start off with this post, I have to note first that there may be many many different specific reasons, from person to person, to start thinking about and to give up on plastics. For example, for my friend, and Plastic-Free Tuesday Founder, Annemieke it was the umpteenth message about the problem of the Great (plastic) Garbage Patches in the oceans, aka the “Plastic Soup”, which set it off. For me, it was the concern over the massive amounts of waste I am generating personally in my life time, and would be leaving as a legacy for later generations. Yet, there are many more reasons to reconsider plastics, such as:
- concerns for health (leaking of plastic toxins through heat or wear of plastic products, incl. Bisphenol A, or plastics in the food chain generally)
- protection of nature, the environment, litter on the streets, prevent animals eating plastic
- the protection of marine life and oceans specifically (consider that the United Nations is now proposing a new Development Goal to “by 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, particularly from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution”. So, it’s not just us, this problem is increasingly getting international recognition and attention too, as it should!)
- reducing the size of plastic waste piles on landfills etc.
- prevent unnecessary waste of resources for plastic packaging manufacturing, recycling, burning of plastics etc. causing more damage to the environment
- maybe, you simply don’t like how plastic feels, tastes or smells 🙂
In short, there may be many different reasons, big and small, to start with Plastic-Free Tuesdays and doing something about plastic waste structurally. If you are still hesitant to start having Plastic-Free Tuesdays, I am proposing three reasons why to consider to START today.
Reason one: “Being part of the solution, not the problem”
Plastic pollution in a major waste and environmental problem in our contemporary society. Imagine that we only really started to use plastics ‘big-time’ as of the 1930s. That’s just 85 years ago! In that time, we managed to create huge problems in terms of litter, for our water ways, waste disposal, animals and the environment generally. One of the big problems which is less obvious to the eye are micro-plastics. Plastic that have decayed into rather small particles over a couple of decennia (i.e. the plastic consumed in 1950s and 1960s?), or plastic particles that detach from syntethic clothing in the washing machine, but which cannot be easily filtered out of the environment anymore and release their plastic toxins into the environment apart from being consumed by marine life (which we also consume..). The following graphs from PlasticsEurope – a plastics branch organization – clearly illustrates the MASSIVE (growth of the) amounts of plastics produced around the world, per year! These are 2013 figures: Of course, as you see, the figures do not include disposable plastics only, but also plastic for medical use, sports equipment, production uses etc. Yet, almost 40% of all the plastic is used (in Europe) for various (disposable) packaging, while a non-specified percentage should be added for all the plastic consumer and household appliances we use. So let’s observe that close to half of all plastics manufactured per year, are plastics we use daily. What happens to all this plastic? Well, PlasticsEurope have some other interesting graphs and info available on that too in the same report. These indicate that almost 40% of the (European?) plastic waste still ends up in a landfill, with in many countries to a large extent, especially absent legislation such as a landfill ban.
The reason why in none of the countries recycling is the main solution, is because to some extent there are capacity issues, and (according to PlasticsEurope) much plastic cannot be recycled due to: – The material composition of products; – The amount, cleanliness and composition of the collected waste streams; – Available technologies for sorting; – Market-driven requirements on quality and standards for recyclables that may limit the appropriateness of plastics recycling. Much of this is true for our food packaging, which is often low-quality plastic. Some of this un-recycled plastic is used for so-called ‘energy recovery’, the burning of plastics in incinerators to generate energy, such as electricity. However, taking the plastic waste problem seriously from an environmental perspective really actually means to “refuse, reduce, reuse, and only then recycle” plastics. For example, the European Union’s ‘waste hierarchy’ gives ‘precedence to waste prevention, reuse and recycling over recovery, including energy recovery, and disposal’. Indeed, both ‘recycling’ and ‘energy recovery’ are not ‘environmental neutral’ processes at all. They may be ‘better’ for the environment, but certainly not GOOD for the environment! Only refusing plastics ensures that no waste problem is created in the first place. Impressed by these volumes and numbers? Get involved in the solution! You can start by refusing to make plastic waste at least one day per week, and inspire others to do the same. If you do this on Tuesday, it means you cut your waste pile by 1/7. There are many alternatives to plastics available nowadays. To learn more, join Plastic-Free Tuesday’s Pinterest boards with lots of inspiration, the PFT-Instagram account, read the blogs here, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. No need to do it alone 🙂
Reason Two: Be the change you want to see in the world. Take your own responsibility.
Concerned about plastics and the size of the problem? Think we should ALL use way less of it and make way less waste? Not sure what YOU can do about it in the face of so much of it? Stick with Gandhi and “Be the change you want to see in the world“. Change does not occur without effort somewhere, and sometimes it is not easy to affect change either, especially if many people are not (yet) aware of something being a real problem anyways. However, leading the pack, you can choose to act already. This is precisely what the Plastic-Free Tuesday community is about. And don’t forget that Governments are stepping up already too. I already mentioned the attention of the United Nations to the plastic soup problem, earlier this year the EU Parliament supported regulation that makes phasing out of plastic bags possible and a requirement, and generally plastic bag bans, micro-bead bans, landfill bans, all exist already as part of the solution. But not nearly enough. With Plastic-Free Tuesday you can start doing your personal part . And surely, your implicit or explicit refusal of plastics may inspire other people to do it too! It’s possible after all.. ! 🙂
Reason Three: It’s so very rewarding.
I have been doing Plastic-Free Tuesdays for a while now, and I have learned and discovered so many new things that I had no idea that would come up. I have read accounts by other people who feel the same too, so I don’t think it’s just me. 🙂 For example, I have had a lot of fun out exploring plastic-free alternatives, new shops, new materials, a local wind mill :-), new ways of doing things and simply taking a new perspective and meeting a lot of new people. Sure, these things cost some time, and you don’t always have it. But it’s fun too. Yet, if you don’t have time, don’t press yourself and skip a week. If you do have time, go for it. If you can make a bit of time, do it. If anything, don’t go into it seeing it as a burden, but see it as a great adventure or opportunity to explore, improve your life, and the environment. Don’t believe me? (still) sceptical? I dare you to just try it 🙂 Get yourself a few cool fabric bags, you’ll enjoy them, e.g. special grocery bags or a simple tote; 2) get a nice favorite to-go coffee mug or jar; 3) visit the market and choose from the abundance of nice, plastic-free food for at least a couple of your meals this week. Stick with this for a while, it will take less time soon. I dare to predict you’ll enjoy it 🙂 Wishing you a wonderful Plastic-Free Tuesday today. Let me know how/what you did, and of course, always happy to answer any questions. Marlies