- 29 Jun 2017
Take the ' Plastic Free July' challenge
Is plastic really a problem? Yes - plastic is a problem. Yes it’s been a revolutionary material that transformed and has shaped our modern lives, and yes we can credit its creation with many important products we couldn’t live without – but it’s also become ubiquitous on this planet…and it won’t be going anywhere for a long time.
Where did plastic come from?
Before plastic, we relied solely on natural resources for the production of products, which often led to shortages or fear of shortages of materials like ivory, wood and stone. The story goes, in 1863 a billiard supplier in New York placed an advert in the paper offering ten thousand dollars in gold to anyone who could create a suitable alternative to ivory, and John Wesley Hyatt got to work in his homemade lab. He wasn’t a chemist, but an innovator, and after years of trial and error, in 1869 he created a material he names ‘celluloid’ the first plastic material made from the natural polymer cellulose found in cotton1.
Bakelite was the first truly synthetic plastic, and today most plastics are made from hydrocarbon molecules that, depending on how they are processed, can be super malleable or extremely firm1.
Why is plastic a problem?
Plastic came about during a time where society was being transformed rapidly by industrialisation, materials that were hard to find and expensive to process we’re now replaced with this easy to produce on mass alternative. The production of this versatile material also opened up the market to countless products we would never dream we needed or wanted, and convenience has seeing plastic weave its way into our daily lives.
It’s not really useful, long-lasting plastic product that are the problem – for the most part it’s the packaging. Households dispose of more than 100kg of plastic packaging every year2. Plastic packaging is quite often single use, it can be totally unnecessary and it goes straight into the bin.
So how is this a problem? Plastic lasts a long time, so long in fact, that it’s thought that almost every piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists somewhere on this planet, and considering 300 million tonnes is produced globally each year3, it’s a huge problem. Only around 10% of the plastic produced is actually recycled4, a figure far too low. And although recycling helps, it creates a mindset that the waste and plastic problem is under control, there’s a solution and that we don’t have to look for alternative products to reduce the problem.
With so much plastic being produced, manufacturing is contributing to the consumption of the world’s fossil fuels, by not breaking down, plastic is entering the food chain. Recent studies estimate that 8 million tonnes of plastic enters to world’s oceans each year, and it’s predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans2.
On top the sheer size of the problem for the environment, we’re still not entirely sure about the health implications associated with being surrounded by plastics day-in day-out. Although studies are inconclusive at this stage, research does show some compelling data that suggests that by exposing ourselves to synthetic chemicals in everyday items, we’re at risk of health issues from cancer to heart disease.
How can you help?
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid single-use plastics, and many plastic items have a plastic-free alternative, and it’s initiatives like plastic-free July that really help drive awareness and demonstrate just how much plastic (particularly single-use plastic) dominates in our daily lives and how we can get around without it and make a difference.
About plastic-free July
Plastic free July encourages individuals, organisations, businesses and communities to reduce and refuse single-use plastic in July. The aim being to create conversations and educate around the issues of plastic pollution and promote solutions.
The idea is to join the more than 84,000 Western Australian’s that took part in plastic free July 2016 and sign-up to reduce your plastic waste for a week, a month… or forever it’s up to you. By consciously making the change, you’ll be breaking habits and learning new ones that will hopefully stick with you in the future and will have a positive impact on the planet.
Each year plastic free July changes household behaviours amounting to 2.5 million kg reduction in recycling waste and 14.5 million kg reduction in landfill waste2.
So how do you go about reducing your plastic footprint on the planet?
12 plastic products you can remove from your life today
In Australia over 30 million tooth brushes are used and disposed of each year, amounting to 1000 tonnes of landfill annually5. Opt for a biodegradable toothbrush made from bamboo and natural cellulose fibres. Bamboo grows quickly and has amazing self-renewing ability.
Body wash, facial cleanser and toners are products we use daily, they can contain microbeads and chemicals that pollute our oceans, and most come in single-use plastic bottles. Switch single-use plastic for sustainable skin care like Santé by ENJO. Fibre cleansing products that harness that natural skin-loving properties of water to cleanse, exfoliate (and even remove makeup) with nothing but water. These fibre products can be washed after use and used again and again for up to three years, then simply send back your fibres to ENJO for upcycling. No waste skin care.
Australian’s love coffee, and use an estimated 1 billion disposable coffee cups a year6. The cup is decidedly useful for approximately 15 minutes and then ends up in landfill, whereas the Santé Infinity Cup is infinitely useful, a guilt-free, plastic-free way to grab your morning coffee on the go.
Out of convenience bottled water has become the norm, which has led to an increasing number of disposable water bottles ending up in landfill. We all for going back to the tap to save time and plastic by purchase a reusable water bottle. Santé’s glass Water Bottle is an earth-loving choice for staying hydrated at home, at work and when your travel.
Prepare you lunch at home and bring it to work day after day by opting for glass reusable containers. Most purpose-made glass containers are oven, microwave, fridge and freezer safe, which makes them perfect for storing leftovers and heating up your lunch.
Straws have such a short life span for a single-use plastic, they are extremely damaging to wildlife and are highly prevalent in waste. The worst part is, for the most part, they really aren’t necessary. Avoid using straws or invest in eco-friendly stainless steel straws.
It’s nice to eat out and buy lunch on the go, simply remember to bring your own cutlery and say no to plastic disposable knives, forks and spoons.
For your weekly shop or when you’re picking up produce ad-hoc, choose produce that’s plastic-free or packaging free. By going to the butcher for your meat you will avoid plastic containers as they usually wrap meat in paper, not plastic. Take your own reusable bags for separating fruit and veg, repurposing your ENJO Laundry Bag is a great way to reduce your use of plastic bags while keeping your produce organised.
Plastic bag pollution is killing marine life, Australian’s use around 4 billion plastic bags every year – that’s 10 million a day7, and it is time to ‘ban the bag’. Most reusable grocery bags are far better for holding your groceries with the flat bottom and durable handles, simply stash some in your car or invest in reusable bags that conveniently fold up into your handbag, so you’re never without them.
Cleaning products are another necessity that use a lot of plastic, usually polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), the world’s third most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer. You can easily remove this use of plastic from your life by refreshing the way you clean with ENJO. Handcrafted fibre cleaning product that use just water to clean your home, no chemical, no plastic bottles, and the products are reusable for up to 3 years – so you won’t even have to think about buying another disposable plastic cleaning bottle. When it comes to renew your fibres, ENJO accept all old fibres for upcycling at their ENJO International headquarters in Austria.
Glass storage containers are a great way to store leftovers, but if you prefer storing in bowls and crockery you already have, avoid plastic wraps and try a reusable beeswax wraps instead. Bee Green Wraps are an Australian company who produce beeswax infused cotton sheets as a plastic alternative. Produced by virtually zero waste methods, simply use the warmth of your hands to fold the paper around your food items, just as you would cling wrap.
Setting up a home waste system will see you dramatically reduce your household waste. Have your recycling box, your composting bin, bin for non-recyclable goods and one small (repurposed if possible) bag. Before anything goes in the bin – check if it can be recycled, repurposed or composted, line your normal bin for non-recyclable goods with newspaper instead of plastic, and only reserve the repurposed bag for extremely wet waste. This will really reduce your use of garbage bags and thus, single-use plastics.