consider reducing rather than recycling
It’s the early 50’s. Grandma has fewer wrinkles, likes to wear dresses shaped like wedding cakes, and along with her girlfriends has a new found fascination with the most revolutionary modality for convenient living – tupperware! It was all too exciting.
Fast forward half a century and the ubiquity of plastic has overridden time, taking on a rate of expansion that nobody could have foreseen.
To think of dealing to the vast use of plastics in our generation alone is overwhelming, save the consideration that every single piece manufactured since it became prevalently used in earlier decades still exists on the planet in some form. Current estimates state that there are over 5 trillion tonnes of plastic afloat in our oceans. Natalie Woods of Australia’s Clean Coast Collective says this is because plastic only ever photodegrades, meaning that it doesn’t ‘dissolve’ but rather continues to break down into smaller and smaller pieces. “Considering how long the average person will use a piece of plastic for – perhaps a plastic straw that they drink from for 15 minutes, or a set of plastic cutlery that they use for one meal – brings a real sobering picture of reality.”
Time is the only non-renewable resource, so unfortunately we can’t take back what has proliferated since plastics conception. However, we can get smarter when it comes to the consumption and distribution of our modern convenience materials. We, along with our children, are well acquainted with the ‘three R’s’ principle for sustainable waste management – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But the growing reality is that the truest, and most urgent, mode of addressing the issue is to see reduction of use (Reduce) as the practise that deserves the greatest level of attention.
Today we are encouraged to confront the plastic problem everywhere we turn, and rightly so.
But we’ll be the first to admit it’s a little overwhelming to stare at that take-away coffee cup and be faced with a guilt-ridden existential crisis…‘if I get it without the plastic lid I’m a saint. But wait, this plastic lined cup surely can’t be good either can it?’
So what’s the real story, and what can we do to reduce it in the first place?
Slow Down: Flag the takeaway cup altogether and instead carve out 5 minutes to sit and enjoy your coffee at the café. It tastes better, and it’s better for the environment.
Same goes for your lunch, eat your sushi there – and say no to the little, plastic fish and pour on your own soy sauce from the big bottle instead.
Send the Supermarkets a Message: Your fruit and veg already has its own natural packaging, so what do you really need those plastic bags for?
Eating your strawberries in Winter or oranges in Summer means they’ve just been flown in from goodness knows where. It reduces packaging, food miles, and it’ll taste fresher too.
Put a Plate on it: Cover your leftovers with a plate rather than plastic wrap. And great news, put those dirty plates in the dishwasher (on an eco setting) as it’s more efficient than washing up by hand.
Aim for the right bin: Throw a can of coke in a non-recycling bin and it will spend the next 200 years decomposing (or not) in a land-fill. Recycle it and you save enough energy to power a TV for three hours.
But remember not to throw any plastic bags in the recycling bin. Recycling workers don’t sort them. Instead, the few that you do get (hopefully), reuse again and again.