Tuesday, August 29, 2017

'low-waste plastic free'

So I've decided to have a go transitioning to what I'm going to call a 'low-waste plastic free' lifestyle. It might be a bit of a mouthful compared to the more commonly known 'zero-waste' but I wanted to try something that seemed (in my mind at least) to be a little bit more realistic.

Why just plastic?

I've been interested in zero-waste for a while, but as soon as I start reading about people that can condense their yearly waste into one small jar I feel really overwhelmed. It's well documented that our lifestyles in the West are extremely wasteful, and although these days a lot of household waste is recycled before it goes in the bin, instinct tells me it's better to avoid rather than mitigate the impact of waste.

I am ultimately trying to cut down on all my waste, but to make this challenge more manageable I'm going to focus on plastic. The impact of plastic waste specifically has interested and bothered me for a while. Why?

  • Plastic is made from petroleum. 'Nuff said.
  • Plastic packaging is recycled less frequently and successfully than others. Do you know what those numbers in recycling symbols on plastic packaging actually mean? Me neither. This post does a good job of trying to explain it. But confusion over this means that a lot of people aren't recycling properly. Just in my personal experience I've noticed that a lot of people think it's fine to put plastic bags or cellophane wrappers into their kerbside plastic recycling bins, and this often simply isn't the case. Which brings me to my next point.
  • Lots of plastic isn't even recyclable in the first place. I'm not an expert on this but a lot of the stuff I've seen people try to put into plastic recycling says that it's not even recyclable on the wrapper. Some things, like plastic bags, are recyclable but these need to be processed separately, and even if there is somewhere near you that will accept them, you'll need to make a special trip to get it there. I think that people would be shocked at the amount of everyday plastic items which can't be recycled.
  • It's cheaper to make new plastic than use recycled. Last year Business Insider reported that making new plastic has become cheaper than using recycled. Whereas glass and aluminium have a fairly cyclical use (tin can is recycled into a tin can) plastic is turned into all sorts of things different from it's original use.

Obviously, it doesn't make sense to throw all the non-recyclable plastic in my house away immediately, so a phrase that someone once told me about veganism applies here “it’s a journey not a destination”. I hope to share this journey here.

This infographic from the European Commission is a good place to start when learning about plastic waste and recycling.

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