The first thing you need to know about my ‘no single-use plastic’ January is that 100% I still used single-use plastics. I did not succeed in avoiding them entirely because there are just so many insidious sources of plastic in everyday life. I would have had to adopt #StopthePlasticTide as a full time job to purge disposable plastic entirely from my household. But as the most recent Star Wars film reminds us “The greatest teacher failure is.”
I won’t pretend that I succeed or that all that I did achieve was just as easy as not doing it because I’m not interested in presenting overly idealised situations or showing off. I want people who work long hours, have kids, are short of money, to be able to live sustainably. But the reasons that make that so difficult are outside of the individuals control: wasteful plastic use in manufacturing and retail mean that some products just are not available without single-use plastics in a given area or price range.
I was inspired to take part in the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) UK’s Stop the Plastic Tide challenge by the blog of a seven year old amateur naturalist called Bláthnaid, from northern Ireland, who wanted to help protect the oceans from plastic pollution.
So I started on the first of January (a traditional time to start things) and gave it a go recording my efforts as best I could while still working.
Things like having a tote bag with me, bringing my reusable water bottle out, having a travel mug and using bar soap were things I was doing already and they are probably the most accessible to anyone looking to cut down on their plastic waste; not only because they’re easy to do but they also end up saving you money in the long term.
There are changes I didn’t have time for, like managing to get all plastic out of my grocery shopping, as that what have meant going without toilet paper, pasta or frozen peas. There are some places to buy these products without plastic but they are much further away and I don’t drive.
I have been told about Give a Crap toilet paper that is recycled and arrives in plastic free packaging to Ireland from the UK (though it’s an Australian company manufacturing in China) and including shipping costs costs €50 for 48 rolls but I haven’t tried it yet myself.
I also didn’t need to replace my razor or shaving cream during January (who shaves regularly in the winter anyway – amaright?) but I read up on homemade shaving cream (based in coconut oil – what else?) and recycled razors.
It’s important to remember that just because things are difficult to do well does not mean that they are not worth doing. We need to effect real, structural change fast if we’re going to stop our oceans reaching crisis point.
Yes that means making responsible personal choices but more importantly it means governments holding manufacturers and retailers responsible for creating the waste in the first place. If you live in Ireland, then when waste reduction legislation appear in the Dáil, you can contact your TD and ask them to support these measures. If you don’t than ask your local and national representatives what they are doing to reduce waste and plastic pollution.