There is a lot in the news now about reducing plastic. Terrifying pictures of beaches strewn with litter and animals killed by plastic are all over my Twitter feed. People all over the world, including me, take up challenges like #PlasticFreeJuly and #ZeroWasteWeek. But not all plastic is rubbish.
I’ve left most of the Zero Waste and Plastic Free groups on Facebook because I saw people who tried to make a change being jumped on again and again for not being perfect. One post was from a woman who cut up a flannel to make reusable cotton pads, she was knocked right back from her small win by the comments that slated her for not using a second hand flannel, it not being organic and assumptions it contained polyester which gets into the ocean…….If I was that woman I would have given up there and then.
We all have to start somewhere and it is vitally important to show solidarity and support to anyone who is trying to make things better.
We cannot live plastic free
What are you reading this on? If you have found a plastic free computer, laptop, tablet or phone please let me know. If you are reading a print out – what was the printer made of? Seriously, if you want to stay connected via the internet, there is not a plastic free way to do it.
Anyone who heavily criticizes you online for buying something made of, or containing plastic is a total hypocrite and you can ignore them.
What is unhealthy about bad plastic?
My last car had a persistent oily film on the inside of the windscreen. It took some detective work to find out that it was the oils coming off the plastic dashboard when the heater was on that caused it. Some plastic, especially PVC can give off fumes but we don’t usually notice them. Polystyrene cups can leach potentially carcinogenic styrene, when they are heated up so you might want to avoid drinking coffee from one. Chemical additive BPA (bisphenol-A) is shaped a bit like estrogen so it can influence how a body works, just like a hormone.
- Polycarbonate with BPA
Lessen the impact of single use plastic
As a material, plastic will last forever, so any products meant to be single use are a bad use of plastic. These are pretty easy to avoid or reduce though and just require a bit of planning.
Try these 3 ways to get the most out of plastic
- Reuse single use items like water bottles, yoghurt pots, plastic cutlery, takeaway containers and even razors. If you reuse something just once you are saving one more thing from landfill.
- Invest in a nice refillable water bottle you want to use. Something that makes you happy.
- Take a Tupperware with you, just a little one, in case you can’t eat all your cake at the coffee shop, or you find some blackberries on the way home.
When is plastic good?
If you need a material that is waterproof, mouldable, sealable and pretty much indestructible, then plastic is your friend.
If you are worried about the health implications of using plastic look for these types and try to find one marked BPA Free. These types of plastic are not known to give off any chemicals that are harmful:
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
- High density polyethylene (HDPE)
When you are buying plastic look for something that will last. If there is a choice, buy the product made of thicker, rather than thinner plastic. You can mend thicker plastic more easily with tape or Sugru so you will get more life out of it.
Please don’t throw it all away
Panicking and throwing away all our plastic will just make things worse. If an item is already made, fit for purpose and not going to harm you please use it before you send it to landfill. Irreplaceable time and energy went into making it, please don’t let that go to waste.
Make little changes
Small changes stick better than radical big ones in my experience. If you want to reduce the plastic in your life start small, check out paper wrapped alternatives at the supermarket, take a sturdy plastic container shopping and ask your local takeaway to reuse your old containers.
If you want more ideas for little changes to lead a more sustainable life have a look in the shop – there is a book for every season and each one is packed with easy ideas towards a greener lifestyle.
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I'm Lisa Cole. I'm a designer and writer who lives in Bristol. Less-stuff is about my journey to live a more organised life. I document little things I can change to live more sustainably. I'm not a minimalist!