The term “plastic” refers broadly to any material that can be shaped or molded into a specific form. Before modern-day plastics were created, glass and clay were considered “plastics,” along with other naturally occurring substances such as like rubber and tree-gums.
Dr. Leo Baekeland introduced a unique substance called Bakelite back in 1907. It was the first entirely synthetic plastic material produced by phenol a derivative of coal tar. This new material was lightweight, strong, heat-resistant, basically the bees-knees. In no time plastic products were everywhere, radios, kitchenware, jewelry, and toys were all being manufactured using this newfangled substance. Since the birth of this miracle substance, it was worked its way into our lives, it’s hard to think of a world without it. But how sweet and pure that world would be.
Three common themes exist when it comes to combating your consumption of the worlds most villainous synthetic. It’s a saying we are all familiar with: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Well seeing as it’s 2018, it’s about time that slogan linked up with a plastic surgeon and got a facelift. The transformation still carrying the same weight but with a new angle. We give you the all-new, same, but different: Reduce, Refuse, Repurpose.
Well, where do we begin? At plastic, obviously.
Plastic waste isn’t the only problem with using plastic. A lot of energy and finite resources are used to create plastic in the first place. Take plastic water bottles, for example. From producing the bottle to filling it with water, to transporting it to stores, and then to your home, creating bottled water takes 2,000 times the energy required to produce tap water! So from the cradle to the grave, the lifecycle assessment of plastic look akin to the three-headed dog, Cerberus, standing guard at the entrance to the underworld granting you access but never allowing you to leave. So when you’re on your next cross-country surf trip, opt for a glass bottle that you could refill at a petrol station or padstal along the way and make use of a travel mug for that hot cuppa.
We only have one Earth, with limited resources and limited space. Given the amount of plastic waste we generate and how long it sticks around, it’s easy to see why environmentally-minded citizens feel it’s important to reduce our plastic waste as much as much as possible.
Many types of synthetic fiber clothing also contain plastics and plastic chemicals. When possible, opt for natural fiber clothing (like cotton, wool, hemp, linen, etc) over synthetics like polyester, lycra, etc. If you can, choose organic clothing when possible, especially for fast-growing lighties who will probably be begging you for some box fresh Vans in less than 3 months.
The average 8- to 12-year-old kid throws away about 3O kilo’s of plastic rubbish every year from their packed lunches. So, instead of packing your kids’ sandwiches in plastic bags, reach for reusable wrappers made of cloth or beeswax. Alternatives like these can be found at farmers markets where you are more likely to source plastic free fresh produce. Another benefit of shopping here is that you are supporting local businesses where transportation costs are a fraction of that 0f larger convenience stores. At the very least purchase a reusable shopping bag, preferably one made from recycled plastic or if the option presents its self, choose paper bags when checking out.
We all know the drill when it comes to someone offering you a straw. It has almost become offensive, “get that shit out of my face” you gesture in your head as your eyes burn through them like Cyclops from X-Men. Good start, yeah sure, now it’s time to board the refuse train on the reg. Get up on that high horse and pity those peasants serving as a vassal or subject, owing their allegiance and services to a lord or sovereign under feudal law, sacrificing sections of their soul to their plastic liege.
The Ted talk above aims to teach you how to live a plastic-free life. Alexis McGivern, a renowned conservationist, is currently working as a Program Manager for Swiss-based Gallifrey Foundation and seconded to IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Program. Her expertise is devoted towards matters of sustainable development, as well as marine conservation. McGivern seeks to create a zero plastic society, whilst leaving a lasting impact on not only her local community but also the wider international sphere.
It may seem a far-fetched notion, that in today’s world we would be able to live a plastic-free life. For the most part, it is extremely difficult as Alexis mentions it has become a deeply rooted addiction, one of convenience more than anything. To live a plastic-free life is actually quite a hack, but it remains an option. Right now the zero plastic route remains the road less traveled, however, with a little bit of effort comes great reward. Individual commitment to a group effort that’s what makes a team work, time to become a team player.
We are human, we were all blessed with a brain that automatically distinguishing us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We possess the power of imagination, critical thinking, expression, and creativity. Although at times you could argue some people even have two brain cells to rub together. The point being, why not utilize this gift, exploit it and extract every ounce of potential in efforts to use our plastics scraps for the better.
DIY recycling projects are always cool, especially when you can turn your trash into something new and useful. Plastic remains useful beyond its initial use due to its resilient, flexible, transparent and food safe nature. As a result, countless applications for these bottles and bags lying around or house exist, take a look at this article that lists 23 “second-life” uses for the simple plastic bottle, an item that gets dumps in its millions every day.
The trick here is to think small, grassroots level. Some of the greatest minds to ever live are currently on a quest to solve the plastic issue and the impact it is having on our ocean, however, research takes time, and the likelihood of a silver bullet being forged overnight is not I likely reality. But what is a possibility is our household ingenuity. Start small while we think big.
Although there’s plastic all around us, there doesn’t have to be. Look for plastic alternatives whenever possible. When there’s no reasonable alternative to plastic, be sure to recycle that plastic you use or repurpose it rather than simply throwing it in the trash.