Plastic World

15 01 2010

Everyday our lifestyle produces tons of waste. We consume unnecessary things, sometimes unwillingly, such as free-trials of many sorts, informative flyers, and lots of packaging. Have you ever opened a bag, that was in a box, that was in another box protected by plastic paper that you brought home in a shopping bag? We all have, then we all know what this is about.

Ideally, this should not exist, but it does. Sometimes, we can give this waste a second life. In other cases, just as many other types of unrecyclable waste, it ends up polluting our environment. Indeed, it’s been around 10 years that our wonderful planet has a “7th continent”, made out of plastic… This post is about reality and how to change it!

Here’s some things we can do:

First, avoid!

Avoid unnecessary plastic and any other material. Everyday we get lots of it: shiny business cards, plastified flyers, shopping bags, extra shopping bags, bottles, tetra-bricks, coffee cups… You name it. Most of the time we know these things will end-up as waste. The easiest thing to do is to say “no, thanks” and/or have your own alternative. Also, when shopping, look for big sized-containers or ideally buy in bulk. Some stores allow you to bring your own containers in order to buy all kinds of things: nuts, dried-fruit, cereals, rice, beans, herbs, soap and shampoo, etc. According to wasteonline, a UK-based organisation, 35% of the plastic used is for packaging (source: click link).

Second, replace.

Make it a point to always have an alternative with you, in your school bag, in your purse, or in your vehicle. If you are a coffee drinker, get a reusable mug. If you drink lots of water, get a water bottle you can refill anywhere. When going shopping bring your own bags, hopefully made out of long-lasting materials (ideally natural fibers). When offered a bag, you’ll be able to smile and say “thanks, I’ve got one already”.

Buying in bulk also allows you to replace unnecessary wrappings and containers by bringing your own. This is a tendency that is starting. By increasing demand, we encourage it. In Spain, milk producers have ‘gone back to the future’ by installing milk vending machines in gas-stations, allowing people to bring their own bottles and buy their milk straight from the producers. Other countries have followed, like Slovenia offering raw milk!

Third: reuse.

In a previous post about aldeafeliz, we commented on a technique that consists in filling-up plastic bottles with all kinds unrecyclable waste (plastic that is not recyclable in your city, cellophane, styrofoam, already-used adhesive tape, bags that can’t be reused, etc). In some communities, people use these bottles as bricks to build houses, schools and many other structures.

Again, if you buy in bulk, you can use and reuse your containers. Do the math: if you buy detergent every two weeks, that means by buying it in bulk (and reusing the container) you’d be saving 26 plastic containers a year. Think of it as a way of living and you’ll see the enormous impact one has over the environment. As a general rule, before putting away any waste, ask yourself what can be done with it. Can I use it for the same purpose it’s already been used? Can I use it for something else? The key is to be creative!

As a last resort: recycle.

Recycling is an important step in taking action, yet is far from being the best solution to our over-consumption problem. Socially, it is very easy to feel satisfied thinking we are improving our environment, when in reality we are not doing so much. In fact, recycling often requires considerable amounts of energy and is not free from toxic by-products. But hey, companies are running out of raw materials, they need our help to keep producing!

The more we think about it, the more it seems that buying stuff in bulk is a pretty efficient way to reduce the amount of waste we put into the environment. Given the amount of people living on this planet, if we want to keep on satisfying our needs from trade this is the next step. It requires a little extra responsibility, that is true. But don’t we owe it to our future? To our children? To our planet, our home? We think we do.

Take it personal!

We have reached a point where it’s crucial to be very conscious of our individual influence and impact on the world. We have been the ones polluting our eco-system by over-consuming all sorts of goods. We are the ones that can make a difference. Being responsible (response-able) regarding our consuming habits involves paying attention to our everyday actions. Why is that important? Because we do it every day!

We want all of us to become conscious and responsible of our consuming habits. It’s time to become actors in making this world cleaner and nicer. Let’s take that extra time to find a store where we can buy our goods with less packaging!

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Please share your comments or ideas on how to reduce our impact on the planet 🙂

Take it further:

To get inspired and start transforming your plastic waste into usefull items check out these links:

http://earth911.com/blog/2009/08/31/8-ways-whys-to-reuse-plastic/

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/368582/reusing_plastic_bags_ideas_for_the.html

To learn more about plastic, the different types and the impact on the world go to: http://www.wasteonline.org.uk

To learn more about the plastic continent go to: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2007/12/are-there-reall.html

To see an example of building with plastic bottles in Guatemala click here

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3 responses

15 01 2010
Reduced Impact Family

I agree with you, and like your article on plastics. I am encouraged to see others documenting ideas on how to make a positive impact. Not only does plastic make massive amounts of “forever” garbage, the toxins emitted into the foods they contain have negative effects as well.

Thanks for the info!

Keith

16 01 2010
lookingfortherainbow

Yes, thanks for bringing that up. Even if reusable and practical as a container, plastic can be very toxic, specially when we put it into contact with hot food. That’s why sometimes, when we eat or drink from plastic containers we get a little plastic taste. According to this article, studies on human urine have shown chemicals from plastic are actually a part of our diet!

Since we are travelling, we needed an alternative to plastic or aluminum containers (pretty common for travellers). And we found some amazing dishes and ustensils made out of maple wood!
Besides being super light, resistent and natural, “maple wood, which is very dense, has natural defence properties against bacteria”, according to the company making them. We simply rinse them properly with clean water right after having used them. That way, not even soap gets into the environment, nor our diet!

Great for travelling and great for eating out, the only downside of these dishes is we haven’t found a way to close them and turn them into storage containers too… Any ideas?

lisa and juan 🙂

16 01 2010
Narcisa

Very interesting piece of info:)
And great ideas how to deal with all sort of plastic we are forced to bring home:)
Keep up the good work, we´ll follow you:)
Narcisa

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