Why is plastic getting a bad press, and should we consider reducing our plastic consumption and even cut it out of our lives where possible? Personally I have been trying to do just that over the past few months, starting with my signing of this petition along with millions of others who signed the pledge to reduce their plastic usage.
The pledge reads: “I pledge to avoid single-use plastic, to reuse or recycle the plastic that I do use, to educate others about plastic waste, and to take Citizen Muscle actions to make plastic a thing of the past. ”
Over a number of years I have become more aware of the problems that plastics create for our environment, and when I read about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I became particularly alarmed. The facts are sobering and depressing and leave no doubt that environmentally, and in terms of its effects on human health, plastic is a growing disaster. As stated in Life Without Plastic
“Most plastics are made from petroleum or natural gas, non-renewable resources extracted and processed using energy-intensive techniques that destroy fragile ecosystems. The manufacture of plastic, as well as its destruction by incineration, pollutes air, land and water and exposes workers to toxic chemicals, including carcinogens.”
In choosing to take a pragmatic approach to managing my own plastic consumption, I have compiled a simple list of ten points:
- Carry a few reusable bags with you and say No to the supermarket’s plastic carrier bags. This is one of the easiest ways to get started and to motivate yourself to do more.
- If you REALLY NEED to purchase a juice/soda/water refreshment while you’re out on your travels, buy the tinned version, not the plastic bottle or cup. And forego the plastic straw!
- Buy wine in glass bottles with real cork stoppers or metal caps, rather than the plastic sack version. Some brands are available in 1.5L bottles, from Johannesburg’s Makro and other outlets.
- Buy from farmers markets whenever possible. Here you have the best chance of buying fresh produce without stickers on the fruit and veg, and of being able to make use of your own packaging.
- Return plastic packaging wherever possible, for instance return yoghurt tubs and egg trays to vendors at farmers markets if you have bought from them previously.
- Buy from roadside vendors. In Johannesburg there are a lot of people selling good quality fruit and veg at the roadside. I buy from those who carry unpackaged stock or who use cardboard/paper packaging only.
- Stop buying the branded plastic-packaged, ready sliced loaves of bread from the supermarket. Rather buy an unpackaged loaf from the bakery section, ask the assistant for a paper bag or use you own, and cut the loaf into slices when you get home. This saves plastic and money…far cheaper.
- Buy cheese from the cheese counter/deli section at the supermarket. Ask them to cut, weigh and price a piece for you, and wrap it in brown paper or your own packaging.
- Buy from bulk bins wherever possible, preferably using reusable packaging or your previously used plastic packaging from home.
- Buy Big. For instance, I use large amounts of white vinegar in the home (more about that in a later post). I have started buying it in 5L plastic containers rather than in the 750ml containers that I used to buy. This saves plastic, because far less plastic goes into making one 5L container as opposed to several small containers. And saves money, cos it’s just cheaper that way.
Here is my week’s shop from Food Lover’s Market in Parkmeadows last week. 100% my own reused packaging from home. NO supermarket’s plastic at all, including the cheese and frozen fish.
And here is their stock of bulk spices and dried herbs, where you can dispense what you need and they will weigh and price for you. They also have large vats of plain and flavoured olive oils where you can refill your own container.
So, how are you managing to cut back on your use of plastic this July? I would love to hear your suggestions, success stories, even your failures and frustrations, especially if you’re a South African going Greener ♥
It’s worth remembering that:
the best way to reduce plastic in our lives is to refuse it in the first place