“But I already recycle” was the reason each person gave me, that didn’t join the Plastic-free month-long Facebook challenge group. There must have been 5 of them at least.
I already recycled too. However, I was alarmed at the video footage of our plastic polluted oceans, and I wanted to find out what I could do to help. I left those people with their thought, and moved onto the people who wanted to join and to find answers.
Initially, the group posted and discussed standard ideas like reusable items, and zero waste shops in the UK. It wasn’t until we had bigger questions that I turned to Google for help, and I did my own research. I can’t tell you how vital it is to find facts and figures that will inform your ideas and decisions.
When I looked into plastic milk bottles versus glass milk bottle, depending on the transportation distance, the lighter weight plastic bottles were actually the better option as less fuel is used. When I looked into plastic bags versus paper bags, then plastic bags were the better option as paper bags are bulkier and heavier. This goes against what we think will be the case. I realised that we can’t isolate the problem and that it’s part of a more complicated situation; as humans are part of a complex ecosystem.
Sometime ago, I had heard a news report that China had recently stopped accepting our plastic waste.
Why were we sending our plastic to China in the first place?
I went looking for information and found a reliable source from the BBC. It seems that although we are being encouraged to recycle, the UK can’t cope with all of the plastic we generate. Between 2014–2016 50–62% of our plastic recycling was sent to China. Now that China has stopped accepting it, we send it to other countries. Countries that have less regulations and who have some of the highest incidences of plastic pollution in their oceans.
This made me angry. I realised that although I recycle religiously, I and others like me are part of the plastic pollution problem. The worst thing is that we are unaware. There are no borders in the sea, this is the world’s problem. What is more, is that it is likely that some of the plastic that you thought was recycled is in fact bobbing on the ocean in some far of country.
The problem doesn’t end there. This plastic eventually breaks down, is eaten by fish and enters our food chain. A report in the Independent states that seafood lovers eat 11,000 pieces of plastic each year.
Why doesn’t this aspect of plastic pollution make more national news reports?
Why are we walking so blindly into the repercussion in our health of eating plastic?
I don’t have the answer for either of those questions. The big realisation for me is that I’m the only person who I can change. I may be able to influence others to change. However, that change needs to come from me first.
So I’ve documented my trips to zero waste shops and told others how I am saying no to excessive plastic. I’ve got into conversations with complete strangers, about what I am doing. I’ve bought some beeswax food wraps and I’ve ordered beeswax to make food wraps as presents. Don’t tell my family this as you’ll spoil Christmas for them.
Finally, I bought myself a Guppy Friend, a laundry bag that stops the microfibers from my fleeces and gym wear ending up in the ocean. I want to reduce my contribution to this global problem.
What is more, I’m spreading the word about how recycling simply isn’t enough. Do your research and use your voice in every purchase that you make. There is power in the collective action. Say no to excessive plastics, and the manufacturers will have to change faster. Let’s all look to our own habits and start to help the environment with what we can change in our lives.
Recycling is not enough.