This week Plastic Free Ambassador Jess Wilson spells out just how difficult it is to avoid throwaway plastic in 21st century Britain.
I wake up, have my breakfast and brush my teeth. Breakfast is cereal from a plastic bag, or toast made with bread in a plastic bag. I then enjoy a nice cup of tea with milk poured from a plastic bottle. To clean my teeth I use toothpaste squeezed from a plastic tube, and use a toothbrush made from plastic.
Once I became aware of just how much plastic I personally consume, I started mentally separating plastics into two categories. The first category is plastic that is intrinsic to modern life and simply cannot be avoided. Examples include the keyboard that I’m typing this on, the mouse I’m using, or the hairbrush I brushed my hair with this morning. There is a second category, however, and this is where individuals can empower themselves by making a concerted effort to avoid throwaway plastic wherever possible.
Several months ago, I made the decision to become a vegetarian after 24 years as a meat-eater. Making this decision is a bit like choosing to reject throwaway plastic packaging. As with vegetarianism and avoiding meat and gelatine, plastic must constantly be at the forefront of my mind. It is assumed that you DO want a plastic straw in your drink, and that you DO want your cheese from the deli counter wrapped in plastic. One must be constantly wary of a forced invasion of plastic into your personal sphere.
A further aspect of becoming an enemy of plastic waste is the frustration felt towards friends’ and family’s thoughtless and wasteful consumption of plastic. For example, my father favours convenience when it comes to his breakfast so he takes an individual porridge pot to work everyday. My protestations about the excessive waste cause nothing but thoughtless deflection about the convenience of these single-use plastic pots of instant porridge.
This is a point that can be widely expanded to encapsulate the 20th century technological advancements that have heralded a new era of rampant consumerism. We as a civilisation have been riding this new, exciting wave for a long time now and the result of this short-term thinking has finally caught up with us. The evidence of this can be seen in the horrendously plastic-polluted oceans and coastlines and communities.
As it becomes impossible to kick our plastic habit, one cannot be opposed to rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in. In this spirit, I go through bins and separate out plastic that can be recycled on a daily basis. I always carry a bag of some kind to pick up discarded plastic along roadsides, on the beach, and in public parks.
The work that A Plastic Planet is doing is vital. By encouraging retailers to foster and support a plastic-free environment in supermarkets, the stresses described in this blogpost can hopefully be avoided and those of us who do care about the effect of our plastic consumption on the environment can sleep peacefully at night. If you are reading this and feeling inspired to make some lifestyle changes to reduce your plastic consumption, all I can say is – go for it!