I am determined to break my fixation with plastic bags and plastic stuff. That statistic I heard somewhere. sometime last year might be vague in context but has been wedged deep in my brain ever since – every piece of plastic ever produced still exists in some form. A lot of plastic, right?
If plastic were not a man(woman)made material then having something stick around for generations would be a good thing. But the only materials and objects that should become permanent pieces of our natural surrounds should, I think, be natural.
But back to what I’ve been doing and not doing, since whenever it was that I heard that stat. I have become curious about what happens with plastic when it goes to a recycle depot or tip, leaves my hand, or rolls about on the street. I haven’t done much but I want to start doing more by using less.
I have never been a cold turkey, life-by-extremes kind of person. And so while I want to say I’m giving up plastic, period, I’m not convinced I can do this without, yep, hassle. This morning’s trip to the local produce market was the perfect example of what I can, and cannot yet do.
Now, and I can’t explain exactly why, but I am suddenly and strikingly aware of is still how much plastic I use unnecessarily, and what my plastic fixation is costing the environment I live in, and the land at large.
I set off for the market this morning (driving, not ideal) with calico bags. Few people will argue about this one. And in Canberra where I live, plastic bags were given the ban across the Territory, sort of, a few years ago. You’re now required to pay 10c if you want a plastic bag. As for the market, the ‘feel’ of an outdoors, fresh fruit and produce setting on a weekend makes taking a calico or straw bag very easy and a bit hip to do. So this one I get no points for.
As I was selecting my vegetables, I tried to collect what was not in plastic. Being a market, this was much easier that a supermarket. I had broccoli, English spinach, dill. Next was seasonal fruit.
Apples were easy and not in plastic, but the look of these tiny but brightly coloured apples next to the plastic bags was almost too tempting. I could get more apples but would need plastic. Or, less apples and gather what I could carry to the stallholder. A man in the line nearby started up a chat, offering me one of his plastic bags. He was reusing his plastic bags and had them bundled together in one bag, and I did admire his reusing of bags.
I replied with what I hope was a polite ‘no thanks’ followed by ‘I’m at Day 1 of a plastic detox’. I was then apologising to this poor unassuming man with ‘but thank you for offering, especially as you’re doing a good thing and reusing your bags’. He shrugged, pointing out and maybe that because they were reused, it wouldn’t be detrimental to my detox.
I hadn’t considered this in my detox. Was the kindness of a stranger and a recycled plastic bag within the rules? I didn’t know, but I sure was holding up the market line.
I packed my apples up and left the stall. I shopped for a few more things, including pork loin. The pork was wrapped in plastic. I bought it. I didn’t want meat and my apples mixing, so it was a solution, if not necessarily the best.
When I as home unpacking, my plastic was minimal and a far cry from what I would have had without thinking about it.
Plastic is convenient sure, and because it is everywhere we keep using it without thinking. I am certain we can reduce the amount we use. We really don’t need most fruit and veg in the big supermarkets in plastic. The big supermarkets have made their profits on being convenient, and with the lifestyle so many of us lead – time and some of cash poor – it is a help to have our food pre-prepared and chopped, sliced, sorted. I wonder though if there’s some way that convenience can be addressed without requiring the amounts of plastic.
Since discovering last year that all plastic is still out there, in an ocean, river, tip, or buried in bush, I had changed some habits. My best friend gave me ‘beeswax wrap’ for my birthday. My hubby and I still use plastic wrap sometimes, but the beeswax wrap has replaced the majority of what we use. We’ve had the same roll of cling wrap for 6 months, which is far better than our use this time last year.
My undoubtedly small but certainly important commitment to a big reduction in the plastic I use, is how I am marking World Environment Day, today June 5th 2017. If you would like to learn more about the problems with plastic and are ready to be more mindful of using alternatives to plastic, check out some of these resources.
And a very hopeful World Environment Day to you.
- ABC’s War on Waste
- TED Talk by Captain Charles Moore, ‘On the Seas of Plastic’
- TED Talk by Van Jones, ‘The Economic Injustice of Plastic’
- Join the Canberra Environment Centre