Could you give up single use plastics for Lent?
We know plastic is incredibly useful – but like a bad guest it overstays its welcome. In particular, plastic film and thin plastic, such as low-density polyethylene (LDPE), that contains or covers many of the products we consume, is particularly disastrous for the environment – and us directly – due to its energy-intensive reliance on non-renewable raw materials and the difficulty in recycling these forms of plastic
Each year billions of plastics are thrown away, most of which are used for only a short amount of time. More than half a billion plastic straws are used every day globally. Almost 2 million plastic bags are used every minute, and the amount of bubble wrap produced annually could wrap around the equator ten times!
Plastic packaging is the biggest producer of plastic waste globally. Incinerating plastic releases CO2, and other toxic chemicals, into the environment, so is not a suitable alternative to get rid of our mass plastic waste. Instead, our plastic ends up in landfills, where on average a plastic bottle takes 450 years to biodegrade..
Alternative polymer bags, which are more eco-friendly , are being developed, but are currently more expensive to produce and are not widely used in our shops. As a result, despite many of us knowing the dangers of single-use plastic film and bags, almost 12.7 million tonnes of plastic (including half a million tonnes of plastic bags) is finding its way into the world’s oceans every year . It is predicted that by 2050 the amount of plastic found in the world’s oceans will outweigh the our fish.
This is having devastating effects on the health of humans and our planet. When plastics deteriorate, they release hazardous chemicals . These poison our ecosystem, entering the food chain in the water and seafood which people all over the world consume, making their way into the human bloodstream . This has harmful effects on human health and has been associated with cancer, infertility, an impaired immune system and other diseases .
It is not only poisoning the human body, but also the earth’s atmosphere, fuelling climate change. If we continue using plastics at our current rate, by 2050 plastic will be responsible for up to 13% of the total ‘carbon budget’. This is the equivalent of 615 coal-fired power plants . This threatens the ability of us as a global community keeping the earth’s temperature rise below 1.5°C .
So, what can I do?
By taking up the challenge to avoid using single-use plastics during Lent, you will be committing to only buying products which are not packaged with plastic film or bags. Sounds simple? Unfortunately, this is going to be quite a challenge. It may be impossible to buy your usual shopping items without them being surrounded by plastic – so it may call for drastic action: a significant change in your shopping routine.
Here are some things you might want to think about to help you on your plastic free journey:
- Groceries—There are many ways to make your grocery shop more eco-friendly. Why not switch to buying loose fruit and vegetables rather than pre-packaged? And why not try buying reusable sandwich bags?
- Cut out the plastic bags—Keep a reusable bag in your bag, car or bike basket at all times and chances are you’ll find opportunities to use
- Bottled/take-away drinks—Take a travel mug or refill your water bottle and always refuse a disposable cup.
- Have an eco-shower— You could use soap instead of shower gel to avoid throwing away an excessive amount of plastic bottles. And why not and a shampoo bar for a plastic free hair wash?
- Do a plastic audit of your home – where can you find single-use plastics and can you research a ‘greener’ alternative?
This might mean having to give up things which simply can’t be changed. We might have to let go of our favourite foods, drinks or magazines (they come in plastic wrap too!) in order to make a stand for the climate.
What difference will this really make?
Forty days of no single-use plastic waste might feel like it will have an imperceptible benefit to the environment in the face of the huge challenge, but it will help us to realise that it is possible to reduce our plastic consumption throughout the year. The average household produces a tonne of waste each year, and every year this increases by 3%..
The amount plastic you will save varies by each individual. You can calculate your plastic consumption on this website.
See how much you could save!
This commitment is about making a noise too. Retail giants do take notice of their consumers’ spending habits, such that purchasing power, as well as consistent calls for reform of packaging practices will make a huge difference.
In time, plastic waste will have a reduced impact on wildlife (entrapment and ingestion) and reduction in the use of fossil fuels and natural gas as a source material will lessen our carbon footprint, helping us to reach our global goals to cap climate change.
Want to find out more? Explore these articles and websites.
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