A plastic free future - what needs to happen

Plastic free future

Date published: Wednesday 5th July 2017

Ecojam UK Manager, Eleanor Williamson, is on a mission to go plastic free in 2017. Here she talks about her progress and what she believes needs to be done to help us all ditch our plastic habit.

I recently wrote a blog called 5 steps to minimise plastic when food shopping and I can honestly say that I am sticking to my own advice. Having no plastic trays, plastic punnets and plastic bottles to throw away seems like a massive achievement. However, I can't shake the feeling that it's not nearly enough. As a family of 4 we are still surrounded by plastic! Plastic packaging, plastic wrappers and don't get me started on the stuff the kids bring home from parties, fetes, trips to grandma's etc.

Also, I have to admit that trying to reduce plastic takes time and I often feels like we are left with a less convenient choice which is more expensive or doesn't seem as good. For example:

  • We use a bar of soap for hand washing (the kids regularly trash it and I find it smeared up the walls)
  • I use a bar of soap to wash my body and hair (it's OK but if I'm honest I prefer shower gel and liquid shampoo)
  • We buy local fruit and veg (if I forget or haven't had time our dinner suffers)
  • We are trying to grow our own fruit and veg (the birds have taken most of the fruit and the veg is a few weeks off being ready)
  • I make my own hummus, bread and yoghurt (I have to squeeze these extra jobs in and when time is short we go without)

I know that there are amazing people out there who live a plastic free life but to do this they have had to dedicate a lot of their time to it.

All this has made me realise that kicking our plastic habit is going to require more than consumer action. It needs to be a collective effort which includes the following:

Big changes in the way we shop
A Plastic Planet is a grass roots organisation with a single aim – a plastic-free aisle in supermarkets. This would be a fantastic start on the journey towards making supermarkets plastic free. 

Another answer could lie in zero waste shops. 'Earth. Food. Love' in Totnes, Devon, is the UK's only zero waste, organic, bulk-buy, plant-based, wholefoods shop. The owners of the shop would like it to be the first of many so they have kindly devoloped a PDF guide to setting up your own zero waste shop. Check it out and perhaps you will be inspired.

Campaigning
Remember that you are not the only one trying to solve the plastic problem. Look for ways to add your voice to the global fight against plastic pollution.

Avaaz currently have a petition open calling on world leaders to 'save our oceans and end plastic pollution now'.

Also, check out this Surfers Against Sewage petition calling on the government to introducing a small, refundable deposit on all plastic bottles, glass bottles and cans.

Alternatives to plastic
In this TreeHugger article Katherine Martinko talks about the need for companies to prioritise the development of alternative packaging technologies. Some amazing alternatives already exist but without political and consumer pressure companies will continue to favour the low cost and the convenience of single-use plastic. Which brings me to my next point...

Consumer action is still massively important
Even if it feels hard and even if it feels like you are not making a difference it is important to do what you can. This will send a message to the supermarkets and to companies to let them know that we are demanding change. Try the following:

  • Cut out unnecesary plastic purchases (like those individually wrapped cakes which are placed in plastic trays and then wrapped again in plastic – are they really an essential?!)
  • Look for easy switches
  • Talk to your kids about the issues
  • Dont try to change everything at once
  • Share tips and advice with others

If you have found any great ways to reduce or cut out plastic we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch on Facebook or Twitter