This is my response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt of 28 July 2018 — Reduce.
Next month has been designated Plastic-Free July. People have been asked to give up single-use plastic for a month. How great would it be if each of us could reduce our plastic use? As you probably know, the spread of plastic waste across the world has reached crisis point. Eventually it all seems to end up in our oceans. I am determined to do my bit to reduce my use of plastic. I’m pragmatic enough to accept that it will take time, but it is so important. I have friends who are small-scale farmers that produce products that are vacuumed packed, but on the other hand, their on-farm practices are sustainable and low-impact. It is a tricky issue. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find a solution. Click here for tips on reducing your use of single-use plastics. BUT, and there is always a “but”, participants need to be mindful of the environmental impact of substituting one single-use material for another.
Australia’s major supermarkets will stop providing single-use plastic bags imminently. Supermarkets will supply (for a small charge) re-usable thicker/stronger plastic bags or re-usable polypropylene bags. Or you can bring your own bag. Apparently, the stronger plastic bags need to be used at least four times to recoup the extra energy required to make the bags. In my state, where we have had a single-use plastic bag ban since 2011, many people don’t re-use the tougher plastic bags. The tougher bags just end up as a bin-liners. If you use your own cotton bags, then you will have to use them 130 times to offset the environmental cost of their production. Apparently jute bags are the best option if you can get hold of them. For the pros and cons on alternative bags, click here. If you can sew, you could re-purpose old clothes destined for the bin as shopping bags.
Changes Our Family Has Made So Far
Rather than thinking of giving up plastic as an impost, maybe consider it an opportunity to make friends. I re-use take-away plastic containers at the deli. It’s a talking point. Make sure to do it when other customers are about, then they can see what is possible too. My children have been taking their own containers and used plastic bags when they get take-away. They are well known by the proprietors of the places they frequent. Maybe you could wash your milkshake container that you got from Maccas, and on your next visit ask them to re-fill it. Sometimes you just need to be creative. And what if I forget my bags or my containers? Well that is tough for me. I go without. You learn pretty quickly that way.
We gave up on our butcher because he uses the plastic bag to handle the meat before putting it in our container. Might as well just turn the bag inside out and use that. I plan to donate several pairs of tongs to him so he doesn’t need to use a bag. Novel, eh? The man that we buy our apples from at the local market usually packs the apples in plastic bags, but we have convinced him to keep some loose ones aside for us. And Walter, our dog treat supplier, is going to investigate buying the dog treats we like in bulk to avoid the packaging. Onya Walter. Where there is a will, there is a way. You only have to ask.
What about disposable plastic bottles? Are glass bottles that you are only going to drink from once a good substitute for PET bottles? Even glass can end up in the oceans and glass takes just as much energy, if not more, to produce than plastic bottles. So if you want to buy a glass bottle of fizzy drink, make sure that the glass goes into the recycling waste stream rather than into general waste. Basically, glass is for keeps, unless you know someone that home-brews and the bottles can be returned for re-use – far better to drink water from your own re-usable container.
In the bathroom, we use palm oil-free soap for shampoo. I buy direct from the supplier so it is unpackaged. Check out your local markets for suppliers. The Plastic Free July website has recipes for personal and household cleaning products that you can make yourself. The recipes are simple. Ladies, there are also suggestions for re-usable (washable) sanitary products. Yuck? It is only natural. I will be trying out some of their suggestions.
Dog poo is only natural too. At one time, I got quite stroppy about people not picking up their dog’s crap, but I’ve had a change of heart. If it is a lightly traversed grassy area, well, just the let the crap break down. For the backyard crap, I make newspaper poo bags. We do use bio-degradable (corn starch) dog poo bags when pooch drops one on heavily trafficked areas. I do have some consideration.
What am I going to give up this July? Crispy seaweed. Seaweed sequesters a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, but the packaging is bad news. Oh, woe is me. This is going to be hard. If it sounds too overwhelming, maybe start somewhere small. But please do start.
Comments welcome. Can’t find the Comments Section? Keep scrolling.