In How To… reduce your plastic use, step 01: Plastic Bottles, we looked at the huge plastic bottle problem globally and what we can do locally to lower the amount of plastic bottles we buy and discard each day.
By recycling plastic, we can decrease the massive amount of plastic that is produced annually, while also saving the natural resources (oil, water and energy) that would be needed to produce new plastic.
However, RECYCLING IS NO LONGER ENOUGH! We use SO much plastic that we cannot keep up with the collection, storage, sorting and processing of our plastic waste! Only about 10% of the 400 million tonnes of plastic produced annually is recycled, with the rest ending up in landfills and the sea… There has to be another way to tackle this problem!
- There are more than 50 different types of plastics, making it extremely difficult to sort and process
- Not all plastics can be recycled
- Not all areas have all the available technology needed to recycle plastic waste
- The collection, storage, sorting and processing of plastic for recycling uses additional resources
- A lot of recycling is shipped off to developing countries to be processed
- The plastic that ends up in landfills leads to greenhouse gases being released as they break down and we have touched upon what happens to the plastic that ends up in our seas!
So rather than talking about recycling, we now understand that we need to be talking about… Reducing, Refusing and Reusing (or Re-purposing) our plastic use.
What other types of plastics can we refuse or reduce our use of?
For each step of this series, we are going to choose a different source of plastic present in our everyday lives and suggest an alternative.
You could even implement it as an educational home project with your kids and see how much plastic you can get rid of out of your weekly shop. By making a diary, you’ll be astounded by how much plastic you will have eliminated within a month or two just by taking some or all of these tiny steps!
Step 02: Plastic Bags!
We are increasingly seeing pictures of land and marine animals entangled in plastic bags; animals often mistake plastic bags for food and nesting material leading to death by poisoning, asphyxiation and starvation dues to their stomachs filled with plastic. An article this week highlighted this problem, with the story of a whale off the coast of Thailand who died with 80 plastic bags in its stomach!
Apart from the growing danger that plastic bags pose to land and marine wildlife, the lightweight nature of plastic bags mean they easily blow out of trash and landfills, where among other things, they can clog up waterways and provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Plastic bags are also made of petroleum – a non-renewable resource and a polluting one at that!
So, what can I do?
Reducing your use of plastic bags is a pretty simple step to implement and is one of the first things being tackled Worldwide with country-level bans on plastic bags or ‘bag taxes’ being enforced in all shops. A new law came in to effect in Cyprus in January this year, banning free plastic bags in supermarkets with the introduction of a 0.05 cent levy on plastic bags at the checkout. However, while most shops offer customers the chance to buy a “bag for life”, many shops have ignored the ban by continuing to give out free plastic bags.
Elsewhere, Worldwide, the introduction of a ‘bag tax’ has seen drastic reductions in waste, with some countries seeing up to a 90% reduction in plastic bag use.
However, you don’t need to wait for these laws to come in to force in Cyprus before you take the plunge and invest in some reusable bags yourself! Start off small and notice the difference each week!
There are a great number of different “bags for life” that you can buy and take everywhere with you. Get your kids involved and don’t be surprised when they start reminding you to take them with you when you go shopping! We suggest buying fabric ones that can fold up neatly and fit in your handbag so that they are always with you and you can never forget them!
For food produce, net bags are fantastic – you can buy them in some shops locally and online – they last for absolutely ages, pack down small, are super strong and expand to fit a huge amount of items in them! We’ve had some for ten years now and they are still going strong – definitely worth the initial extra cost! Plus, they come in a variety of stylish, naturally dyed colours so your fashion sense as well as your wallet, won’t suffer!
For clothes and other shopping, reuse old paper bags or invest in some foldable fabric bags that you can wash and reuse easily – or perhaps make your own! There are so many different types available, in all colours and designs… they also great for presenting gifts in – if you buy the plain canvas ones, the kids can get creative and personalise them for you!
This website is a great resource for looking at the facts & figures about plastic bag waste and to use with your family as a talking point on the subject: https://www.reusethisbag.com/articles/plastic-bag-bans-worldwide/
Please use these social media tags when sharing posts about reducing plastic use and help spread the word that change is needed.
It starts from home!
#BeTheChange #UseLessPlastic #LessOceanPlastic #BreakFreeFromPlastic #PassOnPlastic
#SayNoToPlastic #Reduce #Refuse #Reuse #Repurpose #Recycle