Plastic is a huge problem. This innovative substance created in the 1930s quickly became a ubiquitous material for packing, toys, clothing and so much more. It's durable and cheap to produce, so humans started making it relentlessly without thought for the future.
Now we're dealing with a plastic epidemic. Plastic does not break down and decompose in the same way as other materials, it has a very long life span. This is means that if it makes its way into the ocean, it stays there, poisoning marine life, leeching chemicals into the water and even moving into the air we breathe.
Of course, equally a problem is when plastic makes its way into landfill. It sits there for years and stops the materials around it from correctly decomposing, acting as an effect shield blocking essential, light, heat and moisture from reaching the rest of landfill materials - slowing the overall decomposition. It is also a huge driver of greenhouse gases. Landfill is responsible for much of the methane that goes into the air. And of course, the disposability and single-use nature of many plastics increases our overall production of landfill.
And before you hit me with your "oh, but I recycle my plastics", we need to learn that "recycling" plastic is a fallacy. Firstly, only a select few types of plastic are actually able to be recycled. Then, many countries, states and districts actively choose not to recycle plastic as they can't sell or find a home for the new materials. Then, consider that plastic becomes weaker and weaker each time is it is recycled. In fact, plastic can feasibly only be recycled two to three times before it needs to be thrown away and we then need to introduce more virgin plastic into the cycle.
Sadly, recycling will never be the answer. The only way to get ourselves out of this mess is to stop using plastic altogether. With this in mind and in celebration of Plastic Free July, we bring to you the easiest ways to can reduce the amount of plastic you use day to day. While the change we need has to happen at legislative level, doing what we can on an individual level to show support helps move the needle towards a future where our planet and species survives.
1. Say goodbye to cling wrap
You don't need it. Use a beeswax wrap instead. Or just put your food in container.
2. Swap plastic food storage to glass or Pyrex
IKEA sells affordable glass food storage containers and you can get Pyrex ones from most department stores. They last longer and perform bettere when you need to reheat left overs
3. Switch to hair and body bars
4. Choose cleaning bar concentrates
You can find at brands like Ethique, every time you choose these, you save a plastic bottle.
5. Grow your own herbs
How much are you spending at Woolworths to buy four sprigs of rosemary in an oversized plastic container? It's silly because herbs are so easy and affordable to grow. Rosemary, mint, thyme, sage, chives and basil all grow like wildfire. Also, replant the roots of your leeks and spring onions to save on waste and money.
6. Stop buying polyester clothing - choose viscose, tencel, wool or organic cotton
The fashion industry is a huge contributor to plastic waste - polyester fabrics are literally just woven plastic. Instead, try opting for fabrics like viscose or tencel which are made from wood pulp. Organic cotton (which uses less water than regular cotton) isn't a bad option either. Ethical wool is also far more sustainable than polyester too.
7. Look for plastic-free beauty
We've written an entire piece on plastic-free beauty brands since the beauty industry is a huge contributor to excess plastic waste. Try doing your shopping with one of the brands listed, like Flavedo & Albedo, in order to save on single-use plastics.
8. Find a vegan leather alternative
Unfortunately, a lot of vegan leather is just plastic. Regardless in your views on animal leather, we can all agree that vegan leather from plastic is bad. Fortunately, there are many excellent alternatives like mushroom leather or cactus leather.
9. Try doing your groceries as a bulk foods store
Buying groceries from stores that don't package in plastic, obviously reduces single use plastic, but also helps support business that actively work against plastic. Just remember to bring your own containers or reusable bags.
10. Prioritise plastic-free brands
There are plenty of them out there. From brands like Bed Threads to Underplants who both have no plastic in their packaging or even swing tags, there is a plastic-free brand for almost anything you want to buy. Spend your dollars here and give your support to brands doing the right thing.