We live in a plastic world. Plastic is present at every part of your day – even when you brush your teeth right at the beginning. The problem is that much of it is designed to be consumed briefly but last forever.
It’s disturbing to realise that every toothbrush you have ever owned is still alive somewhere. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down, although there are new biodegradable options that won’t take quite so long. Some plastic can be recycled, but a lot still ends up in landfill or in the ocean.
There is now so much plastic in the ocean that it is literally creating garbage patch islands.
If you haven’t heard of the ocean garbage patches then you are in for a shock. They are forming where ocean currents meet up and create a vortex that traps floating garbage. Once plastic has entered into the current it will likely end up in one of the many garbage patches.
Both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans have trash vortexes, but the most famous is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is 5 times the size of Queensland weighs in at about 7 million tonnes. About 80% is plastic.
Plastic is finding its way into the stomach of fish and birds, and can have a terrible impact on the ocean wildlife. The impact of plastic pollution of wildlife highlight by the film Midway Point – you can watch it here. Be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted.
One of the best ways you can avoid contributing to these plastic islands in the ocean is to recycle anything you can. But there’s still plenty of plastic that can’t be recycled. The list includes everyday items like coffee cups, bin bags and cling wrap.
Plastic is embedded deeply into our daily routines. Attempting Plastic Free July is an easy way to think about how you can reduce plastic in your everyday life. The aim is to attempt to refuse single-use plastic during the month of July.
The organisers are aware of the challenge – you’re also asked to keep any unavoidable single-use plastics in a ‘dilemma bag’ to share on social media at the end of the challenge.
Some single-use plastics to avoid in July:
- Take away coffee cups (apart from the lids, most cups are lined with a plastic layer to insulate)
- Bottled water
- Plastic bags
- Plastic tooth brush
- Cling Wrap
- Plastic food packaging
See below for our 7 tips on living plastic free.
Speak to you family, friends, work friends, and school or share house about attempting the challenge together. Everything is easier in a group, plus you are spreading the word and increasing the impact!
Attempting to go plastic free isn’t easy, but if we are going to curb plastic pollution this challenge is a great way to start – it allows us to reflect on our consumption habits and look for alternative choices.
6 Tips for avoiding plastics
- Purchase a reusable water bottle and coffee cup. For some reusable coffee cups, have a look at KeepCup.
- Make your own bees wax fabric food wrapping to replace cling wrap. You can try a cheap and easy DIY or alternatively you can purchase some from here.
- Knit your own dishcloths and bench cloths out of thick organic cotton thread to replace synthetic dishcloths.
- Take reusable cloth shopping bags or even a cardboard box when you go grocery shopping.
- Replace your plastic toothbrush with a wooden biodegradable toothbrush.
- Save the weekend newspaper and use throughout the week line your household or work bin with paper.
Try and purchase clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton, wool, bamboo, silk and hemp!
Main image: Mike Nelson / The Guardian
By Imogen Williams