Thinking About Plastic

Bali 13.jpg

Visiting the island of Bali was a blissful fortnight of pure paradise, but at the same time – for the first time in my life – I got to see first-hand the extent to which humans are ruining this planet.

On the first morning of our holiday, my partner and I took a walk down the coast to the headland just a few hundred yards to the South of our resort. After spending an hour with my feet following the shape of the sea as it hit gorgeous golden sand, we were both quite upset at how badly polluted certain areas of the ocean were.

The hotel staff and members of the community in Nusa Dua made a huge effort to keep the beach looking as beautiful as possible. Each day I saw people collecting rubbish, brushing the sand into an even surface and there were renovations happening in various places to update and refresh the promenade that linked hotels and restaurants lining the South East coast.

Despite efforts, there were certain parts – mainly in the bays at the base of the headland – where waste from the ocean had gathered and was becoming too vast to manage. I’ve watched documentaries and reports on television but it really is different to experience this in person – to stumble on a mound of old flip flops, to be caught up in plastic bags as you swim.

This area of Bali, as far as I am aware, is by no means an example of the most serious plastic pollution – there are other places in the world where beaches are almost completely covered with crap. You can see from my above photo that it looks nothing like the pictures you see on news reports – I don’t intend to paint a picture of this stunning area that is extreme, but even just seeing these few small clumps was a strong message to me. It was clear just how unmanageable it could become in the future, how it could build up quickly without action.

Just a few days ago it was announced that researchers have found traces of plastic in some of the most remote parts of Antarctica, evidence that this disease is spreading fast. I’d always known that plastic was a serious problem to the world, and had quoted to others regularly a fact I had often heard, that “one truck-load of it gets dumped into the sea per minute”It’s not until you spend an uninterrupted period of time by the coast that you properly engage with the issue first-hand.

So, upon returning from holiday, my partner and I have decided to make some small changes to our lifestyle to try and live a less plastic life. We spent last night devising a plan that we have promised to stick to and I thought I would share it with you below to inspire you to do the same. It’s not perfect and we will, of course, still be consuming and using plastic in many other areas of our lives, but it’s a good start! We’re also going to print this off and pin-it to our fridge as a reminder.

We are both going to:

  • Stop buying plastic bottles of laundry detergent and have recently invested in an Eco Egg. We bought our first egg a few months ago and are loving it. It costs £25 and lasts 3 years. I can’t recommend this enough, you’ll also save so much money!
  • Stop using plastic cutlery and cups when out of the house, and ensure we take metal forks around with us, especially to work every day.
  • Buy glass / hard plastic / non-disposable water bottles that can then be filled so we never have to buy bottles of water again. We’re no longer going to buy disposable plastic bottles of any drinks when out of the house and at home. The only things we regularly buy that come in plastic are milk and squash (I’d like to look more into finding a way to get milk delivered in glass bottles but haven’t found anywhere that delivers to our address yet).
  • Decline plastic straws in bars and restaurants.
  • Stop buying plastic bags. We’ve been using ‘bags for life’ with our supermarket shopping but not when buying other things like clothes. I have various canvas bags that we can take when we purchase anything other than food.
  • Stop buying single-use plastic beauty items like ear buds.
  • Use material cloths instead of wet wipes and anti-bacterial wipes.
  • No longer buy plastic bottles of shower gel and use bars of soap (initially wrapped in paper). I want to try Lush’s ‘naked shower gels’ which is a genius package-less product:
  • Decline in-store coffee cups, most of which (contrary to popular belief) aren’t even recyclable. We have many non-disposable tumblers for hot drinks in our house and just need to make a commitment to always taking these out with us.
  • No longer buy or use chewing gum.
  • No longer buy juice cartons and self-squeeze our own juice at home.
  • No longer buy hand soap in plastic bottles and use bars instead.
  • Never buy anything with the plastic rings that holds cans together (Google this if you are unaware of what these do to animals)

In my opinion all of the above are very easy, do-able and don’t require us buying anything we don’t already have in our house, except maybe a few bars of soap. The below points, however, are more substantial changes and will require some more research and action, but we have promised to stick to them nonetheless.

  • I want to try and not use disposable sanitary products – and the thought of not shoving plastic up where the sun don’t shine sounds quite nice actually. There are various companies that offer cotton sanitary pads that can just be kept in a sealed pouch when out and about and then put in the washing machine or hand-washed. Before anyone says (or thinks) ‘eww, gross’… it’s just blood. It’s clean. It’s the thing you were physically made from and you produce it yourself, just like sweat or tears or any other natural bodily fluid, so you may have to just get over that one I’m afraid (it’s time we stopped being so scared of the female cycle and pretending like it’s not completely natural and normal and healthy). Anyway (mini rant over), I have four weeks to investigate this until my next cycle so will let you know how I get on and what products I try.
  • We want to stop buying fruit and veg that comes wrapped in plastic. We currently do all our shopping in Morrisons and rather than collect items and wrap them in the plastic bags encouraged, I currently take a canvas bag to put everything in loose. In my opinion it’s not worth using ten plastic bags that literally live for ten minutes during the drive home then go straight in the bin when you unload everything into the fridge anyway. The bad news is, we can’t find all items we want to eat un-wrapped in supermarkets, some things are ritualistically bagged. So, from now on, we’re going to buy all fruit and veg (that we can’t find un-wrapped in Morrisons), at our nearest greengrocers, which is just a few streets away from the supermarket, or at local produce markets even closer to our house.
  • I read last night that you can recycle certain supermarket items that people are often unaware of, e.g. the inside plastic packets of cereal boxes and other smaller plastic bags. This needs some more investigation as to what our nearest supermarkets offer as recycling services for individual items.
  • We’ve always wanted to try and grow some of our own vegetables, fruits or lettuces but not sure if it’s been possible as we have a very small outdoor area where we live and it’s North West facing and so for months at a time gets no sunshine. I shall research this more and see what can be grown indoors (we have a very tiny windowsill that faces the sun so perhaps could grow something small).

Sounds like I have a lot to be looking into so I will crack on!

If you want to learn more and brush up on the official facts, figures and ways in which we can reduce the damage of plastic pollution, there are a ton of articles swimming around on the internet so good ol’ Mr. Google will be able to assist you.