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Plastic blocks for recycling ©Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Life in plastic, not so fantastic!

Last updated on Thursday, 17/12/2020

Not all plastic is to be demonised, but single-use plastic is causing a lot of damage to our environment. Here is how you can help to tackle this pressing issue to preserve our planet.

Plastic is everywhere: from clothes to computers and home appliances. It is found on things you would never expect such as food. Did you know it is used to seal tea bags or can be found in your cheese? But, without plastic you wouldn’t have a smartphone either!

Plastic became very popular because it is versatile, cheap to produce and has many different usages. Far from simplistic assumptions, not every type of plastic is bad: it is used for medical purposes, transportation means and in most of our home appliances which would not be possible to use otherwise.

At least 7 different types of plastics can be identified through a system implemented in 1988 to facilitate recycling. You can even come across the term “bio-plastic” which can be misleading. It simply means that it doesn’t come from a fossil-based source since plant-based materials -like corn starch and potato- can be used to create plastic but actually 99% comes from oil, natural gas and coal. Unfortunately, “bio-plastics” are not less polluting because they will not biodegrade in the ocean either.

This is why plastic waste is said to last forever and after its decomposition, it continues to exist in fragments as tiny as to become invisible to the human eye. Microplastics are found everywhere and are toxic for all species, including humans. There is no magic trick to make plastic disappear, recycling is limited and can even become very damaging for other communities far from our sight. This is the case when rich countries ship off their plastic waste afar and threaten local natural resources and health. On top of that, this strategy adds pollution through the footprint of transportation.

This is the reason why tackling our consumption of single-use plastic is the most immediate action we can take to reduce plastic waste. The EU is aware of the damage that disposable plastic inflicts to our planet and has listened to citizens’ concerns.This is how the European Parliament passed in 2019 a new law banning single-use plastic items. By 2021 for instance, all single-use plastic cutlery, cotton buds, straws and stirrers will be banned.

Now it’s your time to play your role! It is not so easy to change our daily habits and avoiding single-use plastic at all times can be hard, but here are some tips for you to make it simple:

1. Go back to basics: Not so many years ago, plastic was not everywhere and still our grand-parents and especially great-grandparents carried on with their lives and had fun! They went to the market with their own cotton bags, went on picnics with reusable cutlery and much more, why don’t you jump in the vintage trend?

2. Make it fun: Challenge yourself and friends to reduce your single-use plastic consumption. You can try to collect a jar of all the single-use plastics you use for a week and see who gets the least filled jar. This will also serve to make you aware of how much you consume and you will be astonished by how much it is!

3. Be curious and find alternatives: It’s fine if you like drinking that refreshing lemonade in summer with a straw, why not use one made from bamboo material? or steel, paper, glass? You can use even pasta straws! - Sorry Italian cuisine for that.

4. Be unique: Carry your own eco-survival kit everywhere! A shopping bag, coffee mug and bamboo or metal utensils and water bottle… even on the plane! Many people feel compelled to buy bottled water when travelling because they think they will not be allowed to pass through airport security. But the truth is that if it is empty you can get on the plane with your bottle.

5. Be creative: Keep learning and discovering new alternatives to single-use plastic products. For example, instead of using cling plastic to wrap your sandwich you can craft your own beeswax wrapping, which sounds like a plan for a cosy Sunday evening at home.   

Remember that you are doing this because you care about the environment, trying to do your best is already a big step and it certainly helps to make a difference on our planet.

Want to go further?

Why don’t you join international campaigns and coalitions calling to reduce plastic waste in the world!