This week’s campaign blog features the reflections of new Plastic Free Ambassador Kate Armstrong.
MY NAME is Kate. I am married and we live in Yorkshire, England, in a small industrial town. We don’t have pets or kids. We shop at supermarkets when we have to, eat meat, drink alcohol and munch cheese. Giving up is not in our nature! We want to do everything but without creating a huge pile of non-biodegradable, possibly carcinogenic, lethal rubbish that future generations will have to clean up.
In 2007, we decided to give up plastic. I started the blog www.plasticisrubbish.com to record our successes and failures. We do it for free, it is our voluntary environmental work if you like. We travel a lot and do it plastic-free.
One day about 12 years ago, a plastic bag got tangled in the tree outside my house. Months later it was still there. Next year, when the leaves fell, there it was – looking all ragged and tatty and even more unpleasant. It was then I realised that plastic rubbish, unlike an apple core say, doesn’t biodegrade. I know it seems obvious now but I had never considered it before.
Plastic of course lasts for decades if not forever yet we are using it to make one-use, throwaway and trashy, short-life items. The rubbish we are making in such huge amounts will be around for ever. The world’s annual consumption of plastic materials has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today. The amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is estimated to be nearly 5 million tonnes.
Most plastic (and we are talking millions of tonnes a year) doesn’t biodegrade. All that plastic rubbish lasts for centuries possibly forever! Because it doesn’t biodegrade, every bit of plastic waste, every sweet wrapper and crisp packet, has to be collected and specially disposed of. If it escapes out into the environment it is there for a very long time.
My campaign to help others live plastic-free started with a personal boycott and a blog.
I got thinking how much plastic rubbish we, my husband and I, created. In fact I monitored it. I saved all our plastic rubbish for a week. By the end of seven days I was running out of space. One look at our trash pile made us see how plastic dependent we were so we decided to boycott it bit by bit. Each month we would stop using a piece of disposable plastic, and source a non-plastic alternative.
The project struck a chord with people. Then I started posting pictures of plastic pollution on Facebook. The campaign pretty much grew from there. The blog now lists over 350 plastic-free alternatives to everyday items including frozen peas (yes you can buy them loose). It has been featured in various newspapers, plus we partner with a number of great awareness raising campaigns.
The response to mine and other anti-plastic campaigns has been hugely positive. In the last 10 years I have seen the movement grow and it is now almost mainstream. There have been plastic bag taxes applied – you can buy compostable corn starch bags in Tesco and taking your own produce bags to supermarkets hardly raises eyebrows anymore. That’s not all down to me I hasten to add but it’s great to see how perception of plastic has changed.
The best way to make people plastic aware is to show the damage that plastic is doing. Photos of plastic trash polluting the planet and hurting animals illustrate the real effects better than anything. Of course they need to backed up with information about plastic. Case studies about plastic-free living show what can be done to tackle the problem. Support groups on social media where plastic free tips can be shared are hugely useful in encouraging people to make small changes that all add up.
The time for action is now. Let’s go!