This is my diary of plastic. Over just a week I decided to collect all of my plastic waste. I was inspired to create this mini personal venture by David Webb and his everyday plastic project where he gathered all of his plastic waste throughout the course of 12 months. At the end of it he had managed to accumulate 22 large bags of plastic where he counted and categorised every single item and found out exactly where his waste was going to end up when he inevitably had to dispose of it. There were many statistics for his plastic collection for example, the use or purpose for one item such as food or packaging or what type of plastic it was. One statistic which opened my eyes wide was that, theoretically, only a meagre 4% of his plastic collection was to be recycled. Only 4%. That’s just one household’s consumption. Think about how much plastic, in the UK, or even globally, that is not recycled and is left in landfill or the ocean where it does not degrade, but just sits there, not serving any purpose whatsoever.
I would have loved to accumulate 12 months of plastic to see how much I was using, however, some of us do not obtain the space to do so, I already pushed it when I had three Tesco carrier bags full of plastic and nowhere to put them in the hole which is my flat. Although, just seeing how much you accumulate over just a week can also enlighten you on the realism of plastic pollution. My realisation after this project was that we only see the product we are purchasing, whether it be groceries, water, toothpaste or sanitary products as the product itself and as we buy this item, we are so conditioned by the way we shop, that we don’t really think about the aftermath - the plastic. Do you really think about where the plastic is going after you’ve used the product up? We like to imagine it being recycled into shiny new plastic, however, this isn’t the case as David Webb’s example goes to show.
I am not suggesting that all plastics are a recipe for pollution, some plastics have been used for inventions which many of us use on a daily basis like technology: computers, phones, furniture, the protective layer which wraps around wires to protect us from shock and even something as simple as tupperware, keeping our food lovely and fresh. These plastics are good, in fact, all plastic is good if you are reusing it and not chucking it away after one use. The problem lays within the disposables which are filling up our oceans and landfills dramatically and how we’ve managed to let this material take over our lives without knowing it. Since I have become aware of the plastic epidemic, I can’t not notice the unnecessary use of plastic packaging everywhere I go. Why do we need a cucumber or broccoli wrapped in air tight flimsy thin plastic? Or avocados which come as a pair? Or grapes in a tub? This one is by far the most barmy: fresh pre-cut vegetables in a bag twice the size of the contents and the serving usually limited to one. Why? The most logical answer I can come up with is: people are lazy and supermarkets have cleverly catered to these people to increase sales.
In this degree, what can we do as individuals to reduce our consumption the easiest way possible? Going zero waste is the movement which has become popular over the past few years. If you’ve already made the decision to change the way you shop and introduce a zero waste plan into your life, then you might have - like I did - taken some inspiration and easy steps from the best to get started. There are many bloggers and influencers on YouTube right now showing off their plastic free lifestyle. This is amazing and it continues to amaze me as I’m not quite sure how they manage it all, assuming they live busy lives like me. When I first took the step to go plastic free I didn’t realise the effort and sometimes struggle that comes with it. As I said before, we have become so conditioned to the way we shop that buying our favourite shampoo and conditioner in a bottle has become second nature to us. We don’t second guess it.
There are a lot of things that can get in the way of starting a plastic free lifestyle and it takes some practice and getting used to. Starting this journey, you will find that you can no longer purchase all of your needs from your shopping list at one place, you will have to hunt around for the easiest and most affordable shops and you’ll need to become the ultimate organiser. For example, my shopping consists of multiple places, the local green grocers for vegetables and fruit, the re-fill place for beans, lentils, rice, pasta, nuts, breakfast cereals and so on, not many people have these local to them so if you do, take advantage! Furthermore, I make my bread at home cutting out the plastic wrapping, I’m not suggesting going out and buying a £50 bread maker but I did as I love homemade bread. Food isn’t the hardest one to tackle, it’s things like household cleaning products which seemed to be a pain in the backside when I first started. However, you can overcome this by either making your own, or using a service like Splosh which sends re-fill powder packets through your door and all you have to do is mix it with water and you have your cleaner. I love this service and it’s actually surprisingly affordable.
To reiterate, going zero waste is harder than it sounds. To me, zero waste isn’t the most realistic term, although it sounds nice, I prefer the term reduced waste. I don’t believe anyone can live a complete zero waste lifestyle and I don’t think anyone should put that kind of pressure on themselves. There are people I have read about who can fit a year’s worth of plastic waste into a jam jar, while this is incredibly amazing and a great example to us, this isn’t realistic. For example, I have recently decided to make my own toothpaste to eradicate the plastic tube which toothpaste comes in. The recipe for toothpaste includes baking powder, coconut oil and minty essential oils. Although, as I am gathering the ingredients together, I pick up the baking powder and the container for this is plastic, therefore, I am not being plastic free, unless there’s a way for me to get this sort of unique ingredient plastic free I’m unaware of. So, how can we be totally and thoroughly zero waste? We can’t. There are just some things that are out of our control and that’s okay. We are human and all we can do is help eradicate this issue to the best of our ability, that’s what I will continue to tell people and what shows in this project, that although I am trying my hardest at living plastic free, I still have plastic coming into my home.
Albeit, I could have done without the crisps, skittles and apple flavoured Lucozade.